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Researchers Create Thin, Flexible Materials for Future Devices

Boris Yakobson, a materials scientist at Rice University, and his colleagues have discovered a property of ferroelectric nanostructured materials that could be employed in future products. According to work published in ACS Nano, single-layer ferroelectric materials may be engineered to function as a nanoscale switch or even a motor since they bend following an electrical stimulus.

Single-layer or two-dimensional materials have a thickness of only a few nanometers and comprise a single layer of atoms. The materials have garnered much attention recently due to their physical, electrical, chemical, and optical properties.

Various applications, from electronics products to medical and industrial technology, can utilise versatile and helpful 2D materials. The ferroelectric state is coupled to the bending or flexing of a material.

“Unlike conventional materials, 2D materials are incredibly lightweight and malleable. Because of this, single-layer ferroelectrics exhibit dynamic bending behaviour that was not predicted,” Yakobson explained.

Ferroelectrics are anisotropic materials, meaning the ions separate based on their electrical charge, and they can change to cause spontaneous polarisation. This research combines the discovery or prediction of a fundamental property of a class of 2D materials with an application to real-world problems.

“The remarkable aspect is that the atoms are not uniform,” said Jun-Jie Zhang, a Rice postdoctoral research associate and the study’s primary author. Instead, layer symmetry is disturbed since some are bigger and some are smaller.

As a result of polarisation, more extensive and smaller atoms are pushed to different directions within the 2D-material layer. In ferroelectric conditions, the material’s surface is curved because of the uneven distribution of atoms or ions.

Yakobson claims that the material will flex rather than stay flat in the ferroelectric condition. When an electrical voltage is applied, the direction of the bend can be altered by flipping a switch.

If your behaviour can be manipulated, then you have an actuator. An actuator is any device that turns a signal (often an electrical signal, although it might be another kind of signal) into mechanical displacement, or, in other words, movement or work.

As an example of the type of ferroelectrics for which this prediction holds, the research focused on 2D indium phosphide (InP). Yakobson, on the other hand, thinks the novel feature or bending behaviour needs to be tested in the lab for particular compounds.

Due to its rapid and sensitive behaviour, the material will likely be used as a switch with only a weak local signal. Users may need to employ actuators to start a turbine or electric engine, for example, or to manipulate the mirrors of adaptive-optics telescopes. He drew parallels to driving a car with many buttons and dials that make controlling the vehicle a breeze. These days, people need to push a button to open the windows and don’t have to crank them anymore.

Separately, MIT scientists investigated the possibility of developing high-tech steel. They can use computational design to speed up creating and producing high-tech materials by several years rather than decades because of the use of computers in an area where MIT was an early leader. US manufacturers of cutting-edge goods in the telecommunications and space industries have used these advanced materials.

Novel materials like cyber steels have been developed with the help of computer-aided design. 3D printing has many applications, including transforming naval aircraft parts. The qualification of cyber steels in naval aviation components has previously made use of computational design technology. The Navy is likewise keen on developing radar-evading nonmagnetic steels for ship hulls.

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