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Dartmouth Engineers Find Rare Materials for Energy-Efficient Electronics

Apr 26, 2021   |   by Julie Bonette

A new, large family of ferroelectric materials could lead to more energy-efficient electronics, a team led by Dartmouth Engineering Professor Geoffroy Hautier has found in a study published recently in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

“Ferroelectric materials are of great importance for storing information and are used in electronics such as computer memories,” said Hautier, the Hodgson Family Associate Professor of Engineering at Dartmouth who served as principal investigator. “Not many materials are ferroelectric and it's a difficult task to find new ones.”

The researchers used high-throughput computing to search a database of thousands of known materials to identify those with ferroelectric properties. Interestingly, the newly identified family of materials is made ferroelectric through a never-before-observed mechanism in which the materials experience geometrically-driven polar distortion, leading to unusual properties.

“For example, we have observed one material in this family to be both ferroelectric and ferromagnetic, meaning it can be controlled with a magnetic field and an electric field, which is very rare. These materials, called multiferroic magnetoelectric materials, are of great interest as they could be used to build more energy-efficient electronics, for instance,” said Hautier.

“We are using more and more energy just to run our servers and our computers, so if we could design better electronics that are built not only for speed but also for energy efficiency, that would make a big impact on our energy problem," he said.

In addition to Hautier, Dartmouth Engineering PhD candidate Louis Alaerts, as well as collaborators from the Université catholique de Louvain and Université de Liège, both located in Belgium, co-authored the paper “Ferroelectricity and multiferroicity in anti-Ruddlesden-Popper structures."

Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique, the U.S. Department of Energy, and Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions provided funding for the research.

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