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Publication Detail / Abstract

T. F. Nova, A. S. Disa, M. Fechner, A. Cavalleri

Metastable ferroelectricity in optically strained c

published on Science on June 14, 2019
> Full text via publisher
Fluctuating orders in solids are generally considered high-temperature precursors of broken symmetry phases. However, in some cases, these fluctuations persist to zero temperature and prevent the emergence of long-range order. Strontium titanate (SrTiO<sub>3</sub>) is a quantum paraelectric in which dipolar fluctuations grow upon cooling, although a long-range ferroelectric order never sets in. Here, we show that optical excitation of lattice vibrations can induce polar order. This metastable polar phase, observed up to temperatures exceeding 290 kelvin, persists for hours after the optical pump is interrupted. Furthermore, hardening of a low-frequency vibration points to a photoinduced ferroelectric phase transition, with a spatial domain distribution suggestive of a photoflexoelectric coupling.
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