Researchers recently made further progress in antiferroelectric materials, paving the way for the development of even better devices.

Electrical devices have been getting smaller and smaller for several years. Engineers and scientists are now building electrical components in miniature and are constantly setting new records. The materials chosen play a crucial role in this.

Researchers at Rice University and UC Berkeley recently made a new discovery in this regard. They demonstrated that miniaturized antiferroelectric materials, particularly lead zirconate, exhibit a significantly higher electromechanical response compared to conventional piezoelectric materials.

This discovery could lead to the development of more efficient and powerful miniaturized electronic devices, as such materials easily convert electrical voltage, which forms the basis of many modern devices.

Antiferroelectric materials are only 100 nanometers thick

Antiferroelectric materials, such as the model material lead zirconate, show an electromechanical response that is up to five times larger than that of conventional piezoelectric materials, even for films that are only 100 nanometers thick. The study shows that these materials work much better at tiny dimensions because they are not affected by so-called “clamping”.

This phenomenon occurs when materials lose their performance at a miniature level because the substrate inhibits it. Using a state-of-the-art transmission electron microscope, the researchers were able to observe the nanoscale shape change of the material in real time.

It was shown that the crystal structure of the material is stretched by applied electrical voltage, which causes a large electromechanical response. Surprisingly, in this case, clamping even enhances the material performance.

More efficient and powerful devices as a possible consequence

The research could enable the development of smaller and more powerful electromechanical devices such as microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS). These devices could consume less energy and perform functions previously thought impossible.

The discovery is the result of years of work on related materials and the development of new techniques to study them. The research results presented now have the potential to influence the next generation of electronics and pave the way for innovative technologies. More efficient and powerful everyday devices would be one possible consequence.

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