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January 19th, 2004

Small defects have large impact

Many materials lose their useful properties as soon as their dimensions fall below a certain limit. This so-called size effect, the sources of which may be quite diverse, can be a road block for the miniaturization of electronic, electromechanic, and electrooptic components. For a particularly promising class of materials, viz. the ferroelectric oxides, researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics have now identified a new origin of the size effect: Tiny linear defects, with an extension of less than about a tenth of nanometer, are able to deform a tube of material with rectangular cross section of about 4 by 8 nanometer around them. This deformation is so severe that the useful ferroelectric properties of the material are destroyed within the tube.


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