Discovery of robust in-plane ferroelectricity in atomic-thick SnTe

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Science  15 Jul 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6296, pp. 274-278
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad8609

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Thinning a ferroelectric makes it better

As a ferroelectric material becomes thinner, the temperature below which it develops its permanent electrical polarization usually decreases. Chang et al. fabricated high-quality thin films of SnTe that, in contrast to this conventional wisdom, had a considerably higher transition temperature than that of the material in bulk (see the Perspective by Kooi and Noheda). This was true even for single-unit cell films, whereas only slightly thicker films became ferroelectric above room temperature. This finding may enable the miniaturization of ferroelectric devices.

Science, this issue p. 274; see also p. 221


Stable ferroelectricity with high transition temperature in nanostructures is needed for miniaturizing ferroelectric devices. Here, we report the discovery of the stable in-plane spontaneous polarization in atomic-thick tin telluride (SnTe), down to a 1–unit cell (UC) limit. The ferroelectric transition temperature Tc of 1-UC SnTe film is greatly enhanced from the bulk value of 98 kelvin and reaches as high as 270 kelvin. Moreover, 2- to 4-UC SnTe films show robust ferroelectricity at room temperature. The interplay between semiconducting properties and ferroelectricity in this two-dimensional material may enable a wide range of applications in nonvolatile high-density memories, nanosensors, and electronics.

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