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Strong polarization enhancement in asymmetric three-component ferroelectric superlattices

An Addendum to this article was published on 07 April 2005


Theoretical predictions—motivated by recent advances in epitaxial engineering—indicate a wealth of complex behaviour arising in superlattices of perovskite-type metal oxides. These include the enhancement of polarization by strain1,2 and the possibility of asymmetric properties in three-component superlattices3. Here we fabricate superlattices consisting of barium titanate (BaTiO3), strontium titanate (SrTiO3) and calcium titanate (CaTiO3) with atomic-scale control by high-pressure pulsed laser deposition on conducting, atomically flat strontium ruthenate (SrRuO3) layers. The strain in BaTiO3 layers is fully maintained as long as the BaTiO3 thickness does not exceed the combined thicknesses of the CaTiO3 and SrTiO3 layers. By preserving full strain and combining heterointerfacial couplings, we find an overall 50% enhancement of the superlattice global polarization with respect to similarly grown pure BaTiO3, despite the fact that half the layers in the superlattice are nominally non-ferroelectric. We further show that even superlattices containing only single-unit-cell layers of BaTiO3 in a paraelectric matrix remain ferroelectric. Our data reveal that the specific interface structure and local asymmetries play an unexpected role in the polarization enhancement.

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Figure 1: Atomic-scale flatness and compositional abruptness in surfaces and interfaces of conducting SrRuO3 and artificial superlattices.
Figure 2: Strain states of a BaTiO3 single film and superlattices on SrRuO3/SrTiO3 substrates and their ferroelectric properties.
Figure 3: Evolution of the in-plane strain with changes in the thickness of BaTiO3 layers for fixed thickness of SrTiO3 and CaTiO3.
Figure 4: Polarization enhancement, changes in asymmetry, and evolution of strain in TCS structures.

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This work was supported by the US Department of Energy under contract with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, managed by UT-Battelle, LLC, as part of a BES NSET initiative on Nanoscale Cooperative Phenomena and of the LDRD programme.

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Correspondence to Ho Nyung Lee.

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Lee, H., Christen, H., Chisholm, M. et al. Strong polarization enhancement in asymmetric three-component ferroelectric superlattices. Nature 433, 395–399 (2005).

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