Currently, an intensive search for high-performance lead-free ferroelectric materials is taking place. ABO3
perovskites (A = Ba, Bi, Ca, K and Na; B = Fe, Nb, Ti, and Zr) appear as promising candidates. Understanding the structure–function relationship is mandatory, and, in this field, the roles of long- and short-range crystal orders and interactions are decisive. In this review, recent advances in the global and local characterization of ferroelectric materials by synchrotron light diffraction, scattering and absorption are analyzed. Single- and poly-crystal synchrotron diffraction studies allow high-resolution investigations regarding the long-range average position of ions and subtle global symmetry break-downs. Ferroelectric materials, under the action of electric fields, undergo crystal symmetry, crystallite/domain orientation distribution and strain condition transformations. Methodological aspects of monitoring these processes are discussed. Two-dimensional diffraction clarify larger scale ordering: polycrystal texture is measured from the intensities distribution along the Debye rings. Local order is investigated by diffuse scattering (DS) and X-ray absorption fine structure (XAFS) experiments. DS provides information about thermal, chemical and displacive low-dimensional disorders. XAFS investigation of ferroelectrics reveals local B-cation off-centering and oxidation state. This technique has the advantage of being element-selective. Representative reports of the mentioned studies are described.
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