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Research Highlight | Materials Science Division

Relating local order to material properties in relaxors

In a recent study published in Nature Materials, researchers provide new guidelines for evaluating displacive models and hence the piezoelectric properties of environmentally friendly next-generation materials.

Scientific Achievement

Neutron and synchrotron x-ray scattering measurements reveal the relationship of various local order motifs to the underlying material properties in relaxor ferroelectrics.

Significance and Impact

Understanding the nature of local disorder and how it affects electromechanical, dielectric, and ferroelectric properties is key for designing more efficient materials.

Research Details

  • Scattering measurements were performed on single crystals of PbMg1/3Nb2/3O3-xPbTiO3 (PMN-xPT), a canonical relaxor ferroelectric and piezoelectric system.
  • Corelli, a novel neutron scattering instrument at the SNS that we designed, enabled measurements of the diffuse scattering with energy discrimination over the entire phase diagram.
  • Butterfly” diffuse scattering is found to relate to piezoelectric properties, but surprisingly not to the relaxor behavior.
  • Complementary neutron and x-ray data revealed that relaxor behavior results from the presence of competing local antiferroelectric and ferroelectric order.
  • Our results provide guidelines for developing microscopic models.

DOI: 10.1038/s41563-018-0112-7

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