PerspectiveFERROELECTRICS

A key piece of the ferroelectric hafnia puzzle

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Science  11 Sep 2020:
Vol. 369, Issue 6509, pp. 1300-1301
DOI: 10.1126/science.abd1212

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Summary

The ferroelectrics community is witnessing one of those moments in which serendipity changes the course of science. The story of ferroelectric hafnia (HfO2) resembles that of Cinderella: Not invited to the polar dielectrics ball, nanoscale HfO2 was dismissed as not being a real ferrolectric, a material that has a switchable spontaneous polarization, despite the experimental evidence for this response. On page 1343 of this issue, Lee et al. (1) bring us closer to a real-life fairy tale ending with their theoretical calculations, which show that nanoscale HfO2 becomes a ferroelectric through a different mechanism. Polarization manifests in the form of two-dimensional (2D) slices separated by nonpolar spacers, associated with flat polar phonon bands that allow for homogeneous switching of electric dipoles.

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