Applied Physics

Giving Ferroelectrics a Push

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Science  29 Jun 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5526, pp. 2401
DOI: 10.1126/science.292.5526.2401a

Ferroelectrics, materials in which the electric polarization can be switched by an applied electric field, are attractive for the development of fast, bistable, nonvolatile memories. For materials in which the change in the electric dipole results in a local structural modification, switching could be detected with a scanning force microscope (SFM). Alternatively, it may be expected that application of an external stress also should affect the electric dipole.

Abplanalp et al. show that combining electric and mechanical stress can lead to a novel switching effect in such materials. They used an SFM to apply mechanical stress and an electric field to a local region of a thin layer of barium titanate. At low mechanical stress, a voltage pulse poles the ferroelectric in the direction of the applied field, as expected. However, simultaneous application of a large mechanical force (0.9 micronewton) during the voltage pulse created a region that was poled in the direction opposite to the applied field. This ferroelastoelectric response may prove useful for developing new ferroelectric devices. — ISO

Phys. Rev. Lett. 86, 5799 (2001).

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