Vanishing critical thickness in asymmetric ferroelectric tunnel junctions: First principle simulations

Department of Electronic and Information Engineering, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China
Journal of Applied Physics (Impact Factor: 2.18). 02/2011; 109(2):024103 - 024103-6. DOI: 10.1063/1.3532000
Source: IEEE Xplore


The stability of the remnant polarization in the ferroelectric barrier layer is a prerequisite to applications involving ferroelectric tunnel junctions (FTJs) or capacitors. One of the most important issues in the pursuit of further developments in this area is to overcome the limitations due to the critical thickness, below which the ferroelectric polarization disappears. In this paper we report first-principle density-functional calculations of the charge distribution and polarization in an asymmetric FTJ (A-FTJ), i.e., one with dissimilar electrodes. We found that a significant and stable polarization can be retained down to thicknesses as small as 0.8 nm (two unit-cells) in a BaTiO 3 thin film between Pt and SrRuO 3 electrodes, quite unlike the case of symmetric FTJs. We trace this surprising result to the large electric field produced by the charge transfer between the electrodes caused by their different electronic environments, which acts against the depolarization field and enhances the ferroelectricity, leading to the reduction, or even the complete elimination of the depolarization field, leading to the vanishing of the critical thickness. We speculate that this is a general result for A-FTJs, which could be of importance to applications of ferroelectric thin films and tunneling junctions or capacitors where the presence of the critical thickness is a limiting factor.

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