Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists take the lead out of piezoelectrics

Date:
November 16, 2009
Source:
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Summary:
By applying epitaxial strain to thin films of bismuth ferrite, researchers have produced a lead-free alternative to the current crop of piezoelectric materials.

This high-resolution electron micrograph shows the the boundaries between rhombohedral (R phase) and tetragonal (T phase) regions -- indicated by dashed lines - in a thin film of bismuth ferrite under epitaxial strain. A smooth transition between phases is observed with no dislocations or defects at the interface.
Credit: Image courtesy of DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Produced on TEAM 0.5 at the National Center for Electron Microscopy.

There is good news for the global effort to reduce the amount of lead in the environment and for the growing array of technologies that rely upon the piezoelectric effect. A lead-free alternative to the current crop of piezoelectric materials has been identified by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC), Berkeley.

The key to this success is the use of bismuth ferrite, a compound with a perovskite crystal structure, meaning it has crystal planes of oxygen and bismuth atoms alternating with planes of oxygen and iron atoms. These planes can move relative to one other when the proper strain is applied. The research team discovered that the piezoelectric effect in bismuth ferrite becomes significantly enhanced in response to the application of epitaxial strain -compression in the direction of its crystal planes.

"We have demonstrated that epitaxial strain can be used to create a large piezoelectric responses in thin films of bismuth ferrite," says Ramamoorthy Ramesh, a materials scientist who led this research. "The piezoelectric effect is reversible when the strain is relaxed."

Ramesh holds joint appointments with Berkeley Lab's Materials Sciences Division and UC Berkeley's Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the Department of Physics. He is the senior author on a paper published in the journal Science entitled: "A Strain-Driven Morphotropic Phase Boundary in BiFeO3."

Co-authoring the paper with Ramesh were Robert Zeches, Marta-Dacil Rossell, Jinxing Zhang, Alison Hatt, Qing He, Chan-Ho Yang, Amit Kumar, Chih-Hubng Wang, Alexander Melville, Carolina Adamo, Ying-Hao Chu, Jon Ihlefeld, Rolf Erni, Claude Ederer, Venkatraman Gopalan, Long-Qing Chen, Darrell Schlom, Nicola Spaldin and Lane Martin

"In principle, the strain-driven piezoelectric effect we have observed in bismuth ferrite should be generic to other lead-free perovskites as well," Ramesh says, "akin to chemically driven effects that are now well established in the manganites, cuprates and relaxors."

Piezoelectric materials, as a result of their unique crystal structures, are able to couple mechanical and electrical properties. Place a mechanical strain on a piezoelectric and an electric charge is generated across its surface. Subject a piezoelectric to an electric charge and its shape becomes deformed. The electromechanical properties of piezoelectric materials have made them valuable components in a broad range of devices, including sensors, actuators and transducers. They are especially valuable for medical ultrasounds and for non-destructive testing of roads and bridges.

The most widely used piezoelectric materials today are lead-based perovskite compounds, especially lead zirconate titanate (PZT). These perovskites display superior piezoelectric properties in areas where the phase of their crystal structure abruptly changes. Such areas, known as morphotropic phase boundaries, are produced via complex chemical alloying of a PZT-type perovskite's metal and oxide constituents. While the technology is well established, lead is a potent neurotoxin that poses a serious threat to human health, especially children, and to the environment.

"We have produced the piezoelectric effect by taking thin films of bismuth ferrite and applying a huge epitaxial strain," says Robert Zeches, a member of Ramesh's UC Berkeley research group who was the first author on the Science paper. "The bismuth ferrite wants to be in a rhombohedral phase but the epitaxial strain forces it into a tetragonal phase, creating a morphotropic phase boundary."

If the strain is removed, the bismuth ferrite crystal structure reverts back to its original rhombohedral-like phase, Zeche says. By alternating between squeezing and relaxing, the researchers can shuttle the material back and forth between the two phases.

Ramesh joking observed that, "Inducing materials into such a schizophrenic state can be the key to obtaining exotic behavior."

Ramesh and his group are now testing their strain-driven piezoelectric technique on other perovskites. They are also exploring the use of epitaxial strain to generate other phenomena such as magnetoresistance. Noting that the reversible phase changes in the bismuth ferrite films are accompanied by changes of a few nanometers in the height of the sample surface -- a substantial change on this scale -- Ramesh and his colleagues believe their results make bismuth ferrite an attractive candidate for data storage applications.

The bismuth ferrite films and morphotropic phase boundaries created by epitaxial strain were characterized using TEAM 0.5, a unique transmission electron microscope created as part of the larger TEAM project. The acronym stands for Transmission Electron Aberration-corrected Microscope. TEAM 0.5 is capable of producing images with half angstrom resolution, which is less than the diameter of a single hydrogen atom. TEAM 0.5 and its successor, TEAM 1.0, are located at Berkeley Lab's National Center for Electron Microscopy (NCEM) -- a DOE national user facility and the country's premier center for electron microscopy and microcharacterization.

"The resolution of TEAM 0.5, which is currently the highest in the world for an electron microscope, made it possible for us to image the atomic structure of both the tetragonal and rhombohedral phases and their interfaces," says Ramesh.

This research was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Zeches et al. A Strain-Driven Morphotropic Phase Boundary in BiFeO3. Science, 2009; 326 (5955): 977 DOI: 10.1126/science.1177046

Cite This Page:

DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. "Scientists take the lead out of piezoelectrics." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 November 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091113141242.htm>.
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. (2009, November 16). Scientists take the lead out of piezoelectrics. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091113141242.htm
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. "Scientists take the lead out of piezoelectrics." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091113141242.htm (accessed August 21, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Flower Power! Dandelions Make Car Tires?

Flower Power! Dandelions Make Car Tires?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 20, 2014) Forget rolling on rubber, could car drivers soon be traveling on tires made from dandelions? Teams of scientists are racing to breed a type of the yellow flower whose taproot has a milky fluid with tire-grade rubber particles in it. As Joanna Partridge reports, global tire makers are investing millions in research into a new tire source. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) Scientists have developed a new device that mimics the way octopuses blend in with their surroundings to hide from dangerous predators. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Green Power Blooms as Japan Unveils 'hydrangea Solar Cell'

Green Power Blooms as Japan Unveils 'hydrangea Solar Cell'

AFP (Aug. 19, 2014) A solar cell that resembles a flower is offering a new take on green energy in Japan, where one scientist is searching for renewables that look good. Duration: 01:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins