June 22, 2009

Ferroelectric material properties measured

U.S. government scientists say they have created a method of measuring the intrinsic conducting properties of ferroelectric materials.

The researchers at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences at the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee say their achievement could lead to much smaller, faster and more powerful electronic devices.

For years, the challenge has been to develop a nanoscale material that can act as a switch to store binary information, Peter Maksymovych, who led the study, said. We are excited by our discovery and the prospect of finally being able to exploit the long-conjectured bi-stable electrical conductivity of ferroelectric materials. Harnessing this functionality will ultimately enable smart and ultra-dense memory technology.

The scientists said they demonstrated for the first time a giant intrinsic electro-resistance in conventional ferroelectric films, where flipping of the spontaneous polarization increased conductance by up to 50,000 percent. Ferroelectric materials can retain their electrostatic polarization and are used for piezoactuators, memory devices and radio-frequency identification cards.

The scientists, including Stephen Jesse, Art Baddorf and Sergei Kalinin, report their findings in Science magazine.