The properties of ferroelectric materials, which were discovered almost a century ago1, have led to a huge range of applications, such as digital information storage2, pyroelectric energy conversion3 and neuromorphic computing4,5. Recently, it was shown that ferroelectrics can have negative capacitance6,7,8,9,10,11, which could improve the energy efficiency of conventional electronics beyond fundamental limits12,13,14. In Landau–Ginzburg–Devonshire theory15,16,17, this negative capacitance is directly related to the double-well shape of the ferroelectric polarization–energy landscape, which was thought for more than 70 years to be inaccessible to experiments18. Here we report electrical measurements of the intrinsic double-well energy landscape in a thin layer of ferroelectric Hf0.5Zr0.5O2. To achieve this, we integrated the ferroelectric into a heterostructure capacitor with a second dielectric layer to prevent immediate screening of polarization charges during switching. These results show that negative capacitance has its origin in the energy barrier in a double-well landscape. Furthermore, we demonstrate that ferroelectric negative capacitance can be fast and hysteresis-free, which is important for prospective applications19. In addition, the Hf0.5Zr0.5O2 used in this work is currently the most industry-relevant ferroelectric material, because both HfO2 and ZrO2 thin films are already used in everyday electronics20. This could lead to fast adoption of negative capacitance effects in future products with markedly improved energy efficiency.
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The datasets generated and analysed during this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.
Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
This project received funding from the Electronic Component Systems for European Leadership Joint Undertaking under grant agreement no. 692519. This Joint Undertaking receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and Belgium, Germany, France, Netherlands, Poland and the UK. This work was also supported in part by the EFRE fund of the European Commission and in part by the Free State of Saxony (Germany). P.L. and R.N. acknowledge funding through the Core Program of NIMP (Romanian Ministry for Research and Innovation).
Nature thanks D. Jiménez, A. Morozovska and L.-E. Wernersson for their contribution to the peer review of this work.