US Army Lab Learned to Create Anti-Ferroelectric Material for Future Batteries (Upd.)

US Army Lab Learned to Create Anti-Ferroelectric Material for Future Batteries (Upd.)
US Army Lab Learned to Create Anti-Ferroelectric Material for Future Batteries (Upd.)

The question of developing ways to store electricity in the 21st century has become incredibly acute - scientists from all over the world are racking their brains over how to make batteries more capacious. The US Army Research Laboratory has made strides in creating the finest anti-ferroelectric lead hafnate films. This compound, which is difficult to obtain, has great potential for use in batteries and electric valves.

US Army Lab says it has learned how to create anti-ferroelectric material for the batteries of the future

Updated May 20: added a link to the publication in the peer-reviewed journal APL Materials and corrected the last paragraph.

The Army Research Laboratory (ARL) shared news of the promising opening in a recent press release (link may not be available from Russia). The Debrief portal also writes about a new method for producing thin films from lead hafnate (PbHf03). As ARL materials scientist Dr. Brendan Hanrahan commented on the post, "Antiferro materials are extremely useful when you need a good way to get a powerful boost for your railgun or defibrillator." In addition, due to their excellent ability to absorb oscillating signals, they make excellent electrical filters.

ARL scientists used Atomic Layer Deposition to create the thinnest lead hafnate films. Likewise, companies like Intel, Samsung, and TSMC are applying zirconium-based antiferroelectrics to produce silicon wafers for chips. But the army specialists had to work hard to adapt the technique for PbHf03. The details of the method are described in a scientific article published in the journal APL Materials. What will be the next steps of the laboratory is also not clear yet - the technology is clearly far from industrial implementation. But given the potential benefits in the form of much larger supercapacitors and reliable microelectronic components, work will definitely not stop.

What is most interesting, to some extent, American scientists were prompted to such results by the work of their Russian colleagues. Despite the fact that lead hafnate has been known since the middle of the 20th century, its anti-ferroelectric properties were confirmed only in 2019. An important work was carried out by a team of physicists from the St. Petersburg Polytechnic University. After this research, the use of PbHf03 in new experiments was just a matter of time.

For a long time, scientists did not pay close attention to hafnium compounds because of its inaccessibility. Even though it is found in nature in the same ores as zirconium, it turned out to be quite difficult to extract it. Only by the beginning of the 2000s, the global production of hafnium rose enough for the prices of this rare metal to fall, and its quantity was sufficient not only for industry, but also for laboratories. In recent years, more and more interesting details about hafnium and its compounds have been revealed. And, apparently, the anti-ferroelectric properties are far from the last surprise that awaits researchers.

Antiferroelectrics are materials in which, under certain conditions, the electric dipole moment of neighboring unit cells of the crystal lattice is mirror-oriented.This happens when, under the action of an electric field, metal cations and oxygen anions of each cell deviate from each other in opposite directions. In other words, this orientation can be described as a stack of very small batteries, alternately stacked with opposite poles to one side. If an electric field is applied to an antiferroelectric material, it becomes polarized, and as the energy increases, it transforms into a ferroelectric state. This effect can be used to store charge and control the flow of current.

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