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Bottom-up approach provides first characterization of pyroelectric nanomaterials
Date:1/8/2013

By taking a "bottom-up" approach, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have observed for the first time that "size does matter" in regards "pyroelectricity"the current/voltage developed in response to temperature fluctuations that enables technologies such as infrared sensors, night-vision, and energy conversion units, to name a few.

"Controlling and manipulating heat for applications such as waste heat energy harvesting, integrated cooling technologies, electron emission, and related functions is an exciting field of study today," explained Lane Martin, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at Illinois. "Traditionally, these systems have relied on bulk materials, but future nanoscale devices will increasingly require ferroelectric thin films.

"Measuring the pyroelectric response of thin films is difficult and has restricted the understanding of the physics of pyroelectricity, prompting some to label it as 'one of the least-known properties of solid materials'," Martin added. "This work provides the most complete and detailed modeling and experimental study of this widely unknown region of materials and has direct implications for next generation devices."

Researchers found that reducing the dimensions of ferroelectrics increases their susceptibility to size- and strain-induced effects. The group's paper, "Effect of 90-degree domain walls and thermal expansion mismatch on the pyroelectric properties of epitaxial PbZr0.2Ti0.8O3 thin films," appears in the journal Physical Review Letters.

"What we did in this work was to develop a new approach to utilize and understand a class of materials important for all of these applications," Martin said. "By moving to a 'bottom-up' approach that produces nanoscale versions of these materials as thin films, we have observed, for the first time, that certain features, namely domain walls, can be incredibly important and even dominate th
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Contact: Lane Martin, Ph.D.
lwmartin@illinois.edu
217-244-9162
University of Illinois College of Engineering
Source:Eurekalert

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