Intrinsic and extrinsic conduction contributions at nominally neutral domain walls in hexagonal manganites
Conductive and electrostatic atomic force microscopy (cAFM and EFM) are used to investigate the electric conduction at nominally neutral domain walls in hexagonal manganites. The EFM measurements reveal a propensity of mobile charge carriers to accumulate at the nominally neutral domain walls in ErMnO3, which is corroborated by cAFM scans showing locally enhanced d.c. conductance. Our findings are explained based on established segregation enthalpy profiles for oxygen vacancies and interstitials, providing a microscopic model for previous, seemingly disconnected observations ranging from insulating to conducting domain wall behavior. In addition, we observe variations in conductance between different nominally neutral walls that we attribute to deviations from the ideal charge-neutral structure within the bulk, leading to a superposition of extrinsic and intrinsic contributions. Our study clarifies the complex transport properties at nominally neutral domain walls in hexagonal manganites and establishes new possibilities for tuning their electronic response based on oxidation conditions, opening the door for domain-wall based sensor technology.