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Factors Favoring Ferroelectricity in Hafnia: A First-Principles Computational Study

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journal contribution
posted on 02.02.2017, 00:00 by Rohit Batra, Tran Doan Huan, Jacob L. Jones, George Rossetti, Rampi Ramprasad
The surprising ferroelectricity displayed by hafnia thin films has been attributed to a metastable polar orthorhombic (Pca21) phase. Nevertheless, the conditions under which this (or another competing) ferroelectric phase may be stabilized remain unresolved. It has been hypothesized that a variety of factors, including strain, grain size, electric field, impurities and dopants, may contribute to the observed ferroelectricity. Here, we use first-principles computations to examine the influence of mechanical and electrical boundary conditions (i.e., strain and electric field) on the relative stability of a variety of relevant nonpolar and polar phases of hafnia. We find that although strain or electric field, independently, do not lead to a ferroelectric phase, the combined influence of in-plane equibiaxial deformation and electric field results in the emergence of the polar Pca21 structure as the equilibrium phase. The results provide insights for better controlling the ferroelectric characteristics of hafnia thin films by adjusting the growth conditions and electrical history.