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Mechanical Writing of Ferroelectric Polarization

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Science  06 Apr 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6077, pp. 59-61
DOI: 10.1126/science.1218693

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Changing Polarization with Applied Stress

The direction of electric polarization in ferroelectric materials can be switched with an applied field, but mechanical stresses can also couple to the polarization, forming the basis for piezoelectric effects. In principle, it should be possible to change the polarization of a ferroelectric material mechanically through stress gradients. Lu et al. (p. 59; see the Perspective by Gregg) demonstrate such switching for nanoscale-sized regions created by the stress induced with an atomic force microscope. The substrates are single-crystalline barium titanate films that have a vertically aligned dipole moment created by compressive stresses in the film. This approach may lead to memory devices in which bits are written mechanically but read electrically.

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