Piezoresponse force microscopy (PFM) is one of the most established techniques for the observation and local modification of ferroelectric domain structures on the submicron level. Both electrostatic and electromechanical interactions contribute at the tip-surface junction in a complex manner, which has resulted in multiple controversies in the interpretation of PFM. Here we analyze the influence of experimental conditions such as tip radius of curvature, indentation force, and cantilever stiffness on PFM image contrast. These results are used to construct contrast mechanism maps, which correlate the imaging conditions with the dominant contrast mechanisms. Conditions under which materials properties can be determined quantitatively are elucidated.
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