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Stacking-engineered ferroelectricity in bilayer boron nitride

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Science  25 Jun 2021:
Vol. 372, Issue 6549, pp. 1458-1462
DOI: 10.1126/science.abd3230

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Stacking a ferroelectric

Properties of layered van der Waals structures can depend sensitively on the stacking arrangement of constituent layers. This phenomenon has been exploited to engineer superconducting, correlated insulator, and magnetic states. Two groups now show that ferroelectricity can also be engineered through stacking: Parallel-stacked bilayers of hexagonal boron nitride exhibit ferroelectric switching even though the bulk material is not ferroelectric (see the Perspective by Tsymbal). To explore these phenomena, Yasuda et al. used transport measurements, whereas Vizner Stern et al. focused on atomic force microscopy.

Science, abd3230 and abe8177, this issue p. 1458 and p. 1462; see also abi7296, p. 1389

Abstract

Two-dimensional (2D) ferroelectrics with robust polarization down to atomic thicknesses provide building blocks for functional heterostructures. Experimental realization remains challenging because of the requirement of a layered polar crystal. Here, we demonstrate a rational design approach to engineering 2D ferroelectrics from a nonferroelectric parent compound by using van der Waals assembly. Parallel-stacked bilayer boron nitride exhibits out-of-plane electric polarization that reverses depending on the stacking order. The polarization switching is probed through the resistance of an adjacently stacked graphene sheet. Twisting the boron nitride sheets by a small angle changes the dynamics of switching because of the formation of moiré ferroelectricity with staggered polarization. The ferroelectricity persists to room temperature while keeping the high mobility of graphene, paving the way for potential ultrathin nonvolatile memory applications.

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