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Published October 2005 | public
Journal Article

Domain switching in polycrystalline ferroelectric ceramics


Ferroelectric ceramics are widely used as sensors and actuators for their electro-mechanical properties, and in electronic applications for their dielectric properties. Domain switching – the phenomenon wherein the ferroelectric material changes from one spontaneously polarized state to another under electrical or mechanical loads – is an important attribute of these materials. However, this is a complex collective process in commercially used polycrystalline ceramics that are agglomerations of a very large number of variously oriented grains. As the domains in one grain attempt to switch, they are constrained by the differently oriented neighbouring grains. Here we use a combined theoretical and experimental approach to establish a relation between crystallographic symmetry and the ability of a ferroelectric polycrystalline ceramic to switch. In particular, we show that equiaxed polycrystals of materials that are either tetragonal or rhombohedral cannot switch; yet polycrystals of materials where these two symmetries co-exist can in fact switch.

Additional Information

© 2005 Nature Publishing Group. Received 7 February 2005; Accepted 25 July 2005; Published online 18 September 2005. The authors thank M. Daymond, E. Oliver and J. Santisteban for their assistance with the experiments, a referee for suggesting the consistency check using the spontaneous polarization of PZT ceramics, and gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the US Army Research Office through DAAD 19-01-1-0517.

Additional details

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October 25, 2023