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Innovative ferroelectric material for energy efficient devices

Discovering the behavior of a material of interest on a small scale could reduce energy consumption in computing

[Translation by Dr. Moshe Nachmani]

Representation of a two-dimensional ferroelectric material [Courtesy: UC Berkeley / Suraj Cheema]
Representation of a two-dimensional ferroelectric material [Courtesy: UC Berkeley / Suraj Cheema]

As electronic devices become smaller and smaller, the materials that power them need to be smaller and smaller. In light of this, one of the main challenges faced by chemists when developing next-generation energy-efficient electronic components is the development of materials that can preserve their special electronic properties even on an extremely tiny scale.

Advanced materials known as 'ferroelectrics' offer a promising solution to help reduce the amount of energy consumed by ultra-tiny electronic devices found inside phones and laptops. 'Froelectric components' - the electronic equivalent of 'ferromagnetic', are a family of materials in which some of the atoms are arranged off-center, which leads to an electric charge or spontaneous internal polarization. This internal polarization can be reversed when the material is exposed to an external voltage. This capability offers great promise for the development of ultra-low power electronic micro-components. Unfortunately, ordinary ferroelectronic materials lose their intrinsic polarization below a thickness of a few nanometers. That is, these materials are not compatible with the existing technology based on silicon (silicon). However, now researchers from the University of California at Berkeley who carried out experiments have found a solution that solves both problems by producing the thinnest ferroelectric material known to date. In a study published long ago in the prestigious scientific journal Science, the research team discovered stable ferroelectricity in an extremely tiny layer of zirconium dioxide that is only half a nanometer thick. This size corresponds to the size of a single atomic building block, about two hundred thousandths of a minute thicker than the thickness of a human hair. The research team grew this material directly over a layer of sol. They discovered the ferroelectric ability in the zirconium dioxide - usually a non-ferroelectric material - when the layer is 2-1 nanometers thick. In particular, the ferroelectric behavior continues even at near-atomic thicknesses reaching half a nanometer. This fundamental breakthrough demonstrates the world's thinnest ferroelectric material. This finding is particularly surprising for a material that is absolutely not ferroelectric in its macroscopic configuration. The researchers were also able to switch the polarization in this thin material from one direction to the opposite direction with the help of a low voltage, a feature that demonstrates the thinnest active memory device on top of Zorn reported so far. The innovative material also holds significant promise for energy-efficient electronic components, especially when you take into account the fact that zirconium dioxide is already available in the most advanced Zorn chips. "This research is a significant step forward toward the possibilities of integrating ferroelectric components into large-scale microelectronics," said lead researcher Suraj Cheema of the paper describing the current study.

Observing the proelectric behavior of such thin systems required the use of the most advanced equipment available at the US Department of Energy. The method of 'X-ray diffraction' (X-ray diffraction) provides important insights into the phenomenon of ferroelectricity," said one of the authors of the article. Beyond the immediate technological implications, this research also has significant implications for the development of two-dimensional materials. "Simply shrinking three-dimensional materials to the limit of their two-dimensional thickness offers a direct and efficient way to reveal hidden phenomena in a wide variety of simple materials," said the lead researcher. "This method really significantly expands the design space of materials for next-generation electronic components so that they include materials that are already suitable for mold technologies." As the lead researcher pointed out, the simple growth of a three-dimensional material in the configuration of atomic-thick layers can offer an efficient way for the development of a new family of two-dimensional materials - three-dimensional materials with a thickness of a single atom - which are distant in their properties from ordinary layers of two-dimensional materials, for example Graphene (graphene). The scientists hope that their research will encourage further research into XNUMXD materials with XNUMXD thickness that could be useful as a basis for the development of energy efficient electronic components.

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