Causal analysis of competing atomistic mechanisms in ferroelectric materials from high-resolution Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy data
Machine learning has emerged as a powerful tool for the analysis of mesoscopic and atomically resolved images and spectroscopy in electron and scanning probe microscopy, with the applications ranging from feature extraction to information compression and elucidation of relevant order parameters to inversion of imaging data to reconstruct structural models. However, the fundamental limitation of machine learning methods is their correlative nature, leading to extreme susceptibility to
... factors. Here, we implement the workflow for causal analysis of structural scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) data and explore the interplay between physical and chemical effects in ferroelectric perovskite across the ferroelectric-antiferroelectric phase transitions. The combinatorial library of the Sm-doped BiFeO3 is grown to cover the composition range from pure ferroelectric BFO to orthorhombic 20% Sm-doped BFO. Atomically resolved STEM images are acquired for selected compositions and are used to create a set of local compositional, structural, and polarization field descriptors. The information-geometric causal inference (IGCI) and additive noise model (ANM) analysis are used to establish the pairwise causal directions between the descriptors, ordering the data set in the causal direction. The causal chain for IGCI and ANM across the composition is compared and suggests the presence of common causal mechanisms across the composition series. Ultimately, we believe that the causal analysis of the multimodal data will allow exploring the causal links between multiple competing mechanisms that control the emergence of unique functionalities of morphotropic materials and ferroelectric relaxors.