Switchable tribology of ferroelectrics

Author (s): Cho, S.; Gaponenko, I.; Cordero-Edwards, K.; Barceló-Mercader, J.; Arias, I.; Kim, D.; Lichtensteiger, C.; Yeom, J.; Musy, L.; Kim, H.; Min Han, S.; Catalan, G.; Paruch, P.; Hong, S.
Journal: Nature Communications

Volume: 1
Date: 2024

Switchable tribological properties of ferroelectrics offer an alternative route to visualize and control ferroelectric domains. Here, we observe the switchable friction and wear behavior of ferroelectrics using a nanoscale scanning probe—down domains have lower friction coefficient and show slower wear rate than up domains and can be used as smart masks. This asymmetry is enabled by flexoelectrically-coupled polarization in the up and down domains under a sufficiently high contact force. Moreover, we determine that this polarization-sensitive tribological asymmetry is widely applicable across various ferroelectrics with different chemical composition and crystalline symmetry. Finally, using this switchable tribology and multi-pass patterning with a domain-based dynamic smart mask, we demonstrate three-dimensional nanostructuring exploiting the asymmetric wear rates of up and down domains, which can, furthermore, be scaled up to technologically relevant (mm–cm) size. These findings demonstrate that ferroelectrics are electrically tunable tribological materials at the nanoscale for versatile applications.