Functional ferroic heterostructures with tunable integral symmetry

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Nature Communications, Nature Publishing Group, Volume 5 (2014)


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 PbZr 0.2Ti0.8O3 and BiFeO 3 -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. © 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited.


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