Dielectric capacitors hold a tremendous advantage for energy storage due to their fast charge/discharge times and stability in comparison to batteries and supercapacitors. A key limitation to today’s dielectric capacitors, however, is the low storage capacity of conventional dielectric materials. To mitigate this issue, antiferroelectric materials have been proposed, but relatively few families of antiferroelectric materials have been identified to date. Here, we propose a new design strategy for the construction of lead-free antiferroelectric materials using interfacial electrostatic engineering. We begin with a multiferroic material with one of the highest known bulk ferroelectric polarizations, BiFeO3. We show that by confining atomically-precise thin layers of BiFeO3 in a dielectric matrix that we can induce a metastable antiferroelectric structure. Application of an electric field reversibly switches between this new phase and a ferroelectric state; in addition, tuning of the dielectric layer causes coexistence of the ferroelectric and antiferroelectric states. Precise engineering of the structure generates an antiferroelectric phase with energy storage comparable to that of the best lead-based materials. Neutron scattering results show that the interfaces of this structure could further host novel magnetic behavior. The use of electrostatic confinement provides a new pathway for the design of engineered antiferroelectric materials with large and potentially coupled responses.
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Julia Mundy (Harvard University)