Physicists discovered an unconventional form of ferroelectricity that could impact next-generation computing, PhysOrg reported.

The work, which involves graphene structures composed of atomically thin layers of materials that are also biocompatible, could usher in new, faster information-processing paradigms. One potential application is in neuromorphic computing, which aims to replicate the neuronal cells in the body responsible for everything from behaviour to memories.

The photo above is an artist’s representation of the nanoscopic structure of the new ferroelectric material developed by MIT researchers and colleagues. The Blue and gold dots represent the boron and nitride atoms in two atomically thin sheets of boron nitride. Between these sheets are two layers of graphene. The whitish/blue dots represent carbon atoms and the gold vertical lines running through the figure represent the movement of electrons. Credits: PhysOrg

Pablo Jarillo-Herrero, Professor of Physics at MIT and leader of the work shared:

Graphene-based heterostructures continue to produce fascinating surprises. Our observation of unconventional ferroelectricity in this simple and ultra-thin system challenges many of the prevailing assumptions about ferroelectric systems and it may pave the way for an entire generation of new ferroelectrics materials.”

Graphene-based structures can be either superconductors or insulators and can also display magnetism. Ferroelectric materials are used in a variety of electronic systems, from medical ultrasounds to radio frequency identification cards.

Qiong Ma, MIT PhD is a co-author of the paper and an assistant professor at Boston College, who conducted the current work as a postdoctoral associate. In his opinion:

This work is the first demonstration that reports pure electronic ferroelectricity, which exhibitscharge polarization without ionic motion in the underlying lattice. This surprising discovery will surely invite further studies that can reveal more exciting emergent phenomena and provide an opportunity to utilize them for ultrafast memory applications.”

Qiong Ma added that the researchers aim to continue their work.

“There are still many mysteries that we don’t fully understand and that are fundamentally very intriguing.” 

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