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Ferroelectricity on the nanoscale
Date:7/10/2012

Promising news for those who relish the prospects of a one-inch chip storing multiple terabytes of data, some clarity has been brought to the here-to-fore confusing physics of ferroelectric nanomaterials. A multi-institutional team of researchers, led by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has provided the first atomic-scale insights into the ferroelectric properties of nanocrystals. This information will be critical for development of the next generation of nonvolatile data storage devices.

Working with the world's most powerful transmission electron microscope, the researchers mapped the ferroelectric structural distortions in nanocrystals of germanium telluride, a semiconductor, and barium titanate, an insulator. This data was then combined with data from electron holographic polarization imaging to yield detailed information on the polarization structures and scaling limits of ferroelectric order on the nanoscale.

"As we scale down our device technology from the microscale to the nanoscale, we need a better understanding of how critical material properties, such as ferroelectric behavior, are impacted," says Paul Alivisatos, director of Berkeley Lab and one of the principal investigators in this research. "Our results provide a pathway to unraveling the fundamental physics of nanoscale ferroelectricity at the smallest possible size scales."

Alivisatos, who is also the Larry and Diane Bock Professor of Nanotechnology at the University of California (UC) Berkeley, is a corresponding author of a paper describing this work in the journal Nature Materials titled "Ferroelectric order in individual nanometrescale Crystals." The other corresponding author is Ramamoorthy Ramesh, a senior scientist with Berkeley Lab's Materials Sciences Division and the Plato Malozemoff Professor of Materials Science and Physics for UC Berkeley.

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Contact: Lynn Yarris
lcyarris@lbl.gov
510-486-5375
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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