Publication Type:Journal Article
Source:Nature Communications, Volume 5, p.4295 (2014)
Keywords:design, Electronic properties and materials, Ferroelectrics and multiferroics, synthesis and processing
The relation between symmetry and functionality was pinpointed by Pierre Curie who stated that it is the symmetry breaking that creates physical properties. This fundamental principle is nowadays used for engineering heterostructures whose integral symmetry leads to exotic phenomena such as one-way transparency. For switching devices, however, such symmetry-related functionalities cannot be used because the symmetry in conventional heterostructures is immutable once the material has been synthesized. Here we demonstrate a concept for post-growth symmetry control in PbZr0.2Ti0.8O3 and BiFeO3-based heterostructures. A conducting oxide is sandwiched between two ferroelectric layers, and inversion symmetry is reversibly switched on or off by layer-selective electric-field poling. The generalization of our approach to other materials and symmetries is discussed. We thus establish ferroic trilayer structures as device components with reversibly tunable symmetry and demonstrate their use as light emitters that can be activated and deactivated by applying moderate electric voltages.