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Interfacial ferroelectricity by van der Waals sliding

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Science  25 Jun 2021:
Vol. 372, Issue 6549, pp. 1462-1466
DOI: 10.1126/science.abe8177

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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

Despite their partial ionic nature, many-layered diatomic crystals avoid internal electric polarization by forming a centrosymmetric lattice at their optimal van der Waals stacking. Here, we report a stable ferroelectric order emerging at the interface between two naturally grown flakes of hexagonal boron nitride, which are stacked together in a metastable non-centrosymmetric parallel orientation. We observe alternating domains of inverted normal polarization, caused by a lateral shift of one lattice site between the domains. Reversible polarization switching coupled to lateral sliding is achieved by scanning a biased tip above the surface. Our calculations trace the origin of the phenomenon to a subtle interplay between charge redistribution and ionic displacement and provide intuitive insights to explore the interfacial polarization and its distinctive “slidetronics” switching mechanism.

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