ORNL finding could help electronics industry enter new phase

  • 23-Jun-2009 04:45 EDT

Electronic devices of the future could be smaller, faster, more powerful, and consume less energy because of a discovery by researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Published in Science, the key to the finding involves a method to measure intrinsic conducting properties of ferroelectric materials, which for decades have held tremendous promise but have eluded experimental proof. Now, ORNL researchers at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences believe they may be on a path that will see barriers tumble. The researchers have demonstrated for the first time a giant intrinsic electroresistance in conventional ferroelectric films, where flipping of the spontaneous polarization increased conductance by up to 50,000%. Ferroelectric materials can retain their electrostatic polarization and are used for piezoactuators, memory devices, and RFID (radio-frequency identification) cards. The key distinction of ferroelectric memory switches is that they can be tuned through thermodynamic properties of ferroelectrics. The report, "Polarization control of electron tunneling into ferroelectric surfaces," is available at http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/324/5933/1421.

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