Ferroelectric materials– found in subway, ATM, fuel and other “smart cards”–may eliminate time-consuming booting and rebooting of computer operating systems by providing an “instant-on” capability. Besides reducing the waiting time for everyday computer users, the discovery could pave the way for memory devices that are lower power, higher speed, and more convenient to use. The materials may also help prevent losses from power outages.
Ferroelectric materials provide low-power, high-efficiency electronic memory. Smart cards use the technology to instantly access and store updated information when they’re waved before a reader. A computer with this capability could instantly provide information and data to the user.
Researchers led by Cornell University materials scientist Darrell Schlom deposited strontium titanate onto silicon. Strontium titanate is a normally non-ferroelectric variant of the ferroelectric material used in smart cards. Silicon is the principal component of most semiconductors and integrated circuits. Schlom’s method forced the silicon to squeeze the strontium titanate into a ferroelectric state.
The arrangement between atoms of a film of strontium titanate and single crystal of silicon on which it was made. Credit: D. Schlom