Lead halide perovskites have demonstrated outstanding performance in photovoltaics, photodetectors, radiation detectors and light-emitting diodes. However, the electromechanical properties, which are the main application of inorganic perovskites, have rarely been explored for lead halide perovskites. Here, we report the discovery of a large electrostrictive response in methylammonium lead triiodide (MAPbI3) single crystals. Under an electric field of 3.7 V µm−1, MAPbI3 shows a large compressive strain of 1%, corresponding to a mechanical energy density of 0.74 J cm3, comparable to that of human muscles. The influences of piezoelectricity, thermal expansion, intrinsic electrostrictive effect, Maxwell stress, ferroelectricity, local polar fluctuation and methylammonium cation ordering on this electromechanical response are excluded. We speculate, using density functional theory, that electrostriction of MAPbI3 probably originates from lattice deformation due to formation of additional defects under applied bias. The discovery of large electrostriction in lead iodide perovskites may lead to new potential applications in actuators, sonar and micro-electromechanical systems and aid the understanding of other field-dependent material properties.

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Change history

  • 12 October 2018

    In the version of this Article originally published, the y axis of Fig. 1c was incorrectly labelled ‘S (%)’; it should have been ‘–S (%)’. Also, the link for the Supplementary Video was missing from the online version of the Article. These errors have now been corrected.


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This work is financially supported by the Office of Naval Research under award N00014-17-1-2727, the Department of Energy (DOE) under award DE-EE0006709 and the National Science Foundation (NSF) under awards DMR-1505535 and DMR-1420645. E.M. and F.D.A. acknowledge the project PERSEO—‘Perovskite-based Solar cells: towards high Efficiency and long-term stability’ (Bando PRIN 2015—Italian Ministry of University and Scientific Research (MIUR) Decreto Direttoriale 4 November 2015 no. 2488, project no. 20155LECAJ) for funding.

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Author notes

  1. These authors contributed equally: Bo Chen, Tao Li.


  1. Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE, USA

    • Bo Chen
    • , Qingfeng Dong
    • , Zhaolai Chen
    • , Yehao Deng
    • , Ye Liu
    •  & Jinsong Huang
  2. Department of Physics and Astronomy, and Nebraska Center for Materials and Nanoscience, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE, USA

    • Tao Li
    • , Jingfeng Song
    • , Stephen Ducharme
    •  & Alexei Gruverman
  3. Computational Laboratory for Hybrid/Organic Photovoltaics (CLHYO), CNR-ISTM, Perugia, Italy

    • Edoardo Mosconi
    •  & Filippo De Angelis
  4. D3-Computation, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Genova, Italy

    • Edoardo Mosconi
    •  & Filippo De Angelis
  5. Department of Applied Physical Sciences, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

    • Jinsong Huang


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J.H., B.C. and Q.D. conceived the idea. B.C. designed the experiments. T.L. and A.G. conducted the AFM measurements. Q.D., Z.C. and Y.L. grew the single crystal. E.M. and F.D.A. conducted the computational simulations. J.S. and S.D. performed Mach–Zehnder interferometer measurements. Y.D. carried out the XRD measurement. B.C., F.D.A. and J.H. wrote the paper, and all authors reviewed the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Filippo De Angelis or Jinsong Huang.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Sections 1–11, Supplementary Figures 1–16, Supplementary Tables 1–3 and Supplementary References 1–14

  2. Supplementary Video 1

    Electrostrictive response of MAPbI3 single crystal under alternative bias on and bias off through lateral electrode on the top surface.

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