Researchers design ferroelectric material less than a nanometer thick

– Olga Miltsova /

The increasingly small size of electronic components means that the technology that powers them adopts a similar scale. One of the main challenges for scientists, therefore, is to identify materials that prove to be both ultra-thin and efficient.

A major advance in the field of ferroelectricity

A team of researchers fromuniversity of berkeley, in California, designed a ferroelectric material ultra-thin that she applied to silicon. The conclusions of their work were recently presented in the review Nature.

Ferroelectric materials exhibit spontaneous polarization which can be reversed when they are exposed to an external electric field, which is particularly advantageous in the field of electronics. In particular in the field of storage, since the ferroelectric bits have the particularity of being able to be written thanks to a lower voltage and power than the magnetic bits used by hard disks.

As part of their experiments, Californian researchers demonstrated the ferroelectric properties of a material just 1 nanometer thick, which could therefore be used to efficiently power the most compact electronic components, with quantities of energy. greatly reduced.

We are making smaller and smaller computer components Says Sayeef Salahuddin, lead author of the study. ” This reduced size prevents you from using thick materials, but with our ultra-thin ferroelectric material, lack of space is no longer an obstacle. “

3D representation of the structure of the ultra-thin material designed by the researchers

More efficient batteries and much more compact memory chips

If the team had previously succeeded in developing ultra-fine materials with such properties, below about 3 nanometers, ” ferroelectricity tended to decrease for conventional materials “, Estimated Suraj Cheema, co-author of the study.

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The researchers therefore turned tohafnium oxide modified, which has been deposited on silicon in the form of an atomic layer (less than 1 nanometer thick). And it turned out that its ferroelectric properties were more marked than for materials several nanometers thick, which constitutes, according to the authors of the study ” a fundamental breakthrough ” in this domain.

According to Salahuddin, this advance could allow the development of batteries and ultra-efficient sensors, but would prove especially promising in the field of computing, since it suggests the possibility of developing memory chips and logic chips much more small.

The discovery of ferroelectric properties for materials as thin as 1 nanometer in thickness means that this type of storage unit could be reduced to much smaller dimensions than previously thought possible “, Conclude the authors of the study.


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