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Age of the Ferros

Conventional ferroelectrics may have a new challenger

A new study raises the possibility of a "high-performance alternative" to conventional ferroelectrics. Published in the scientific journal Nature Materials on May 23, these findings should be taken with a grain of salt, as many such publications are prone to oversaturation of research and bold claims.

Nonetheless, this study claims to overcome the limitations of "clamping" within conventional electromechanical materials like ferroelectrics and relaxers. An abstract on the paper, produced by Pan, H., Zhu, M., Banyas, E. and others, reads:

"Thin-film materials with large electromechanical responses are fundamental enablers of next-generation micro-/nano-electromechanical applications. Conventional electromechanical materials (for example, ferroelectrics and relaxers), however, exhibit severely degraded responses when scaled down to submicrometer-thick films due to substrate constraints (clamping)."

"This limitation is overcome, and substantial electromechanical responses in antiferroelectric thin films are achieved through an unconventional coupling of the field-induced antiferroelectric-to-ferroelectric phase transition and the substrate constraints," the paper, entitled Clamping enables enhanced electromechanical responses in antiferroelectric thin films, continues.

"A detilting of the oxygen octahedra and lattice-volume expansion in all dimensions are observed commensurate with the phase transition using operando electron microscopy, such that the in-plane clamping further enhances the out-of-plane expansion, as rationalized using first-principles calculations. In turn, a non-traditional thickness scaling is realized wherein an electromechanical strain (1.7%) is produced from a model antiferroelectric PbZrO3 film that is just 100 nm thick. The high performance and understanding of the mechanism provide a promising pathway to develop high-performance micro-/nano-electromechanical systems."

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