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Speeding Up Ferroelectric Switching

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 06:39AM

There are many potential replacements for the current technologies used in computers, each with some rather valuable abilities, but also problems that prevent its adoption. Among these are ferroelectric materials, which could be used for non-volatile memory, but are slow at switching between states. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Pennsylvania, however, have found a general way to at least double current speeds.

Ferroelectric materials have a natural polarization to them, which can be switched by an electric field. Once set, the polarization will persist until another electric field changes it, which is the cause of interest in them for computer memory. Actually switching the atoms in the material from up to down though, is somewhat slow, at least compared to the speed of modern computers. What the researchers have done is looked at switching the atoms not from up to down, but from up to another direction, and then from that to down. Even though there is an intermediary step, the process itself is faster than trying to flip the atoms from up to down, and by manipulating the thin film they were working with, the operational speed was at least doubled.

Thus far the work has only been down with a thin film of lead zirconate titanate, which is somewhat common. As the approach should be applicable to any ferroelectric material, investigating other materials could lead to greater improvements than what have already been found.

Source: University of California, Berkeley

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