Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Inna Ponomareva


Ferroelectric, Nanoscale, Perovskite, Physics


The discovery of ferroelectricity at the nanoscale has incited a lot of interest in perovskite ferroelectrics not only for their potential in device application but also for their potential to expand fundamental understanding of complex phenomena at very small size scales. Unfortunately, not much is known about the dynamics of ferroelectrics at this scale. Many of the widely held theories for ferroelectric materials are based on bulk dynamics which break down when applied to smaller scales. In an effort to increase understanding of nanoscale ferroelectric materials we use atomistic resolution computational simulations to investigate the dynamics of polar perovskites. Within the framework of a well validated effective Hamiltonian model we are able to accurately predict many of the properties of ferroelectric materials at the nanoscale including the response of the soft mode to mechanical boundary conditions and the polarization reversal dynamics of ferroelectric nanowires.

Given that the focus of our study is the dynamics of ferroelectric perovskites we begin by developing an effective Hamiltonian based model that could simultaneously describe both static and dynamic properties of such materials. Our study reveals that for ferroelectric perovskites that undergo a sequence of phase transitions, such as BaTiO3. for example, the minimal parameter effective Hamiltonian model is unable to reproduce both static and dynamical properties simultaneously. Nevertheless we developed two sets of parameters that accurately describes the static properties and dynamic properties of BaTiO3 independently.

By creating a tool that accurately models the dynamical properties of perovskite ferroelectrics we are able to investigate the frequencies of the soft modes in the perovskite crystal. The lowest energy transverse optical soft modes in perovskite ferroelectrics are known to be cause of the ferroelectric phase transition in these materials and affect a number of electrical properties. The performance of a ferroelectric device is therefore directly influenced by the dynamics of the soft mode. Interestingly, however, little study has been done on the effect of mechanical boundary conditions on the soft modes of perovskites. Understanding the effect of mechanical forces on the soft modes is critical to device applications as complicated growth structures often are the cause of pressures, stresses and strains. Using classical molecular dynamics we study the effect of hydrostatic pressure, uniaxial stress, biaxial stress and biaxial strain on the soft modes of the ferroelectric PbTiO3. The results of this study indicate the existence of Curie-Weiss laws for not only hydrostatic pressure, which is well known, but also for uniaxial stress, biaxial stress and biaxial strain. The mode frequencies are also seen to respond very differently to these mechanical forces and lead to a more complete picture of the behavior of nanoscale ferroelectrics.

One nanoscale geometry of perovskite ferroelectrics is the pseudo one-dimensional nanowire. These structures have very unique properties that are highly attractive for use as interconnects, nanoscale sensors or more directly in computer memory devices. Perovskite nanowires have only recently been synthesized and the techniques are not well developed. While progress has been made towards consistently fabricating uniform, high quality nanowires experimental investigation of their properties is prohibitively difficult. Of immediate interest is the polarization reversal dynamics of ferroelectric nanowires. The reading and writing of bits of information stored in a wire's polarization state is done by switching the polarization. Again using classical molecular dynamics we study the polarization reversal dynamics in ferroelectric nanowires made of Pb(Ti1-xZrx)O3 disordered alloy. We find that there are two competing mechanisms for polarization reversal and that the interplay of these mechanisms is dependent on electric field strength. The dynamics in nanowires also sheds light on long standing theories about polarization reversal mechanisms in thin film and bulk geometries.