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New Crystal Holds Promise for Future Electronics

ferroelectric, materials, DIPAB
The alternatively colored bands are positively and negatively charged poles, viewed at the nanometer scale. (Image credit: Jiangyu Li Ph.D., University of Washington)

Researchers have discovered a new material that may have important applications for a wide range of industries. The material is a molecular crystal called diisopropylammonium bromide (DIPAB), which has robust ferroelectric properties — meaning it exhibits positively and negatively charged poles, like a magnet, that can be rotated by an electric field. This makes the material useful for applications such as sensing, actuating, data storage and flexible electronics.

While most ferroelectric materials are expensive to produce, DIPABcan be easily synthesized from aqueous solution because of its molecular structure.

Additionally, many ferroelectric materials are inorganic and contain lead, making them environmental hazardous. But DIPAB contains only carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and bromine, and is therefore environmentally friendly.

Importantly, another major problem with existing molecular ferroelectrics is that they aren't as good as their inorganic counterpart and tend to lose their ferroelectricity at higher temperatures. The researchers, led by investigators at the University of Washington and the Southeast University of China, found that DIPAB has ferroelectric properties comparable to barium titanate, a commonly used ferroelectric crystal, and is able to withstand even higher temperatures. This is critical for many practical applications, such as nonvolatile memory in smart cards.

The team expects that the discovery will lead to an easy-to-produce, environmentally friendly, and cost-effective alternative to traditional ferroelectric materials.

The full research report, "Diisopropylammonium bromide is a high temperature molecular ferroelectric crystal", was published online in the journal Science on January 25, 2013.

The work is supported by the National Science Foundation.

Editor's Note: Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. See theResearch in Action archive.