Revolutionary finding to pave way for smaller, faster and powerful electronics

June 18th, 2009 - 2:53 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, June 18 (ANI): Electronic devices that will be more efficient and consume less energy than those present today may be just round the corner-all thanks to a breakthrough discovery by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

And the discovery involves a method to measure intrinsic conducting properties of ferroelectric materials, which for decades have held tremendous promise but have not yet been proven in lab.

However, now ORNL Wigner Fellow Peter Maksymovych and colleagues have claimed that they have made a path-breaking discovery.

“For years, the challenge has been to develop a nanoscale material that can act as a switch to store binary information. We are excited by our discovery and the prospect of finally being able to exploit the long-conjectured bi-stable electrical conductivity of ferroelectric materials,” said Maksymovych.

He added: “Harnessing this functionality will ultimately enable smart and ultra-dense memory technology.”

In the study, 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 percent.

Ferroelectric materials can retain their electrostatic polarization and are used for piezoactuators, memory devices and RFID (radio-frequency identification) cards.

“It is as if we open a tiny door in the polar surface for electrons to enter. The size of this door is less than one-millionth of an inch, and it is very likely taking only one-billionth of a second to open,” said Maksymovych.

The researchers noted that the key distinction of ferroelectric memory switches is that they can be tuned through thermodynamic properties of ferroelectrics.

“Among other benefits, we can use the tunability to minimize the power needed for recording and reading information and read-write voltages, a key requirement for any viable memory technology,” said a co-author of the study.

The authors believe that using phase transitions such as ferroelectric switching to implement memory and computing is the real fundamental distinction of future information technologies.

The study has been published in the journal Science. (ANI)

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