Giant strains in single crystals of an age old material – a new investigation highlights the importance of atomic defects on performance and durability.

A new paper, co-authored by Electrosciences, is published in Applied Physics Letters, Materials.
Video of the temperature dependence of XRD scans showing the evolution of the peak.

Engineering materials through the introduction of point defects has resulted in significant advances in semiconductor processing and, more recently, the observation of novel phenomena such as large reconfigurable strains in ferroelectrics as a result of defect dipole complexes. Up to 0.8% strain has been demonstrated in BaTiO3 crystals dilutely doped with iron. However, the defect dipole pinning sites and the corresponding achievable strains are found to degrade as the crystal is electrically cycled as part of the measurement process. The strain degradation rate is dependent on the applied field values but shows an exponential change in materials properties regardless of the electric field. This behavior, plus a change in impedance with number of times cycled, suggests these changes are due to electric field induced oxygen migration—similar to the cause of the resistance degradation effect. Despite this, effective piezoelectric coefficients of over 4700 pm/V were recorded with 1.5 kV/cm fields, one of the largest values for a lead-free piezoelectric material thus far. In addition, the defect dipole-aligned state and the high strains can be repeatably recovered by a subsequent heat treatment step after cycling. Potential paths to exploiting the defect dipole induced effects and large piezoelectric coefficient in these dilutely doped systems are proposed.

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