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Interfacial ferroelectricity by van der Waals sliding

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Science  10 Jun 2021:
eabe8177
DOI: 10.1126/science.abe8177

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Abstract

Despite their partial ionic nature, many layered diatomic crystals avoid internal electric polarization by forming a centrosymmetric lattice at their optimal van-der-Waals stacking. Here, we report a stable ferroelectric order emerging at the interface between two naturally-grown flakes of hexagonal-boron-nitride, which are stacked together in a metastable non-centrosymmetric parallel orientation. We observe alternating domains of inverted normal polarization, caused by a lateral shift of one lattice site between the domains. Reversible polarization switching coupled to lateral sliding is achieved by scanning a biased tip above the surface. Our calculations trace the origin of the phenomenon to a subtle interplay between charge redistribution and ionic displacement, and provide intuitive insights to explore the interfacial polarization and its unique “slidetronics” switching mechanism.

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