PerspectiveMaterials Science

Fundamental Size Limits in Ferroelectricity

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Science  11 Jun 2004:
Vol. 304, Issue 5677, pp. 1606-1607
DOI: 10.1126/science.1099822

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Ferroelectric materials feature a spontaneous electric polarization that can be switched from one orientation to another by an electric field. As a result, ferroelectrics are of great interest for data storage applications, but earlier experimental results have implied that they could not be used in devices below a certain critical size because the polarization would disappear. In her Perspective, Spaldin discusses results reported in the same issue by Fong et al. in which x-ray diffraction was used to demonstrate that the critical size is in fact orders of magnitude smaller than expected. The findings are encouraging for device applications and also for theoretical studies that predicted the smaller critical size.