Symmetry-imposed restrictions on the number of available pyroelectric and piezoelectric materials remain a major limitation as 22 out of 32 crystallographic material classes exhibit neither pyroelectricity nor piezoelectricity. Yet, by breaking the lattice symmetry it is possible to circumvent this limitation. Here, using a unique technique for measuring transient currents upon rapid heating, direct experimental evidence is provided that despite the fact that bulk SrTiO3 is not pyroelectric, the (100) surface of TiO2 -terminated SrTiO3 is intrinsically pyroelectric at room temperature. The pyroelectric layer is found to be ≈1 nm thick and, surprisingly, its polarization is comparable with that of strongly polar materials such as BaTiO3. The pyroelectric effect can be tuned ON/OFF by the formation or removal of a nanometric SiO2 layer. Using density functional theory, the pyroelectricity is found to be a result of polar surface relaxation, which can be suppressed by varying the lattice symmetry breaking using a SiO2 capping layer. The observation of pyroelectricity emerging at the SrTiO3 surface also implies that it is intrinsically piezoelectric. These findings may pave the way for observing and tailoring piezo- and pyroelectricity in any material through appropriate breaking of symmetry at surfaces and artificial nanostructures such as heterointerfaces and superlattices.
- Broken symmetry
- Strontium titanate
- Surface pyroelectricity
Meirzadeh, E., Christensen, D. V.
, Makagon, E., Cohen, H., Rosenhek-Goldian, I., Morales, E. H., ... Lubomirsky, I. (2019). Surface Pyroelectricity in Cubic SrTiO3
. Advanced Materials
(44), . https://doi.org/10.1002/adma.201904733