Measuring Nanoscale FerroelectricityCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: July 11, 2012 04:40PM
Magnets have been used for data storage for some time now, but they are approaching limits that are increasingly difficult to overcome. Switching a magnet requires a fairly strong magnetic field, but the stronger the field the more likely it is to flip bits other than the target. A potential replacement to magnetic data storage is ferroelectric data storage, which switch their polarity when exposed to an electric field.
Researchers at Berkeley Lab, Brookhaven National Laboratory, and numerous other institutions have successfully studied how ferroelectric materials behave at the nanoscale. Other researchers have examined these materials at the nanoscale before, but used multiple observation methods that then had to be averaged together. This process can cause key properties of the material to disappear, but those at Berkeley Lab and their collaborators used the same technique, so no averaging was needed.
The researchers found that the ferroelectric property of flipping electric polarization disappears when the material's dimensions are smaller than 5 nm. This is very important as it gives a limit to the minimum size of a bit within a ferroelectric data storage system. Overall the experiments taught the scientists about how ferroelectricity manifests itself at the smallest scale.