Ferroelectric chalcogenides—materials at the edge

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Science  15 Jul 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6296, pp. 221-222
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf9081

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A ferroelectric material possesses an intrinsic electric dipole (polarization) whose direction can be reversed with an applied field. Applications of ferroelectrics include nonvolatile memories and sensors, but for high-density electronic devices or nanoscale devices, a limitation has been that as a ferroelectric film gets thinner, the maximum temperature for retaining the dipole—the Curie temperature Tc—decreases (often well below room temperature). On page 274 of this issue, Chang et al. (1) show that ultrathin layers of tin telluride (SnTe) can display robust, room-temperature, ferroelectric properties with higher Tc than that of the bulk material.