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Title: Giant Electrocaloric Effect in Ferroelectrics with Tailored Polaw-Nanostructures

Electrocaloric effect (ECE) is the temperature and/or entropy change in a dielectric material caused by an electric field induced polarization change. Although ECE has been studied since 1930s, the very small ECE observed in earlier studies in bulk materials before 2007 makes it not attractive for practical cooling applications. The objectives of this DOE program are to carry out a systematical scientific research on the entropy change and ECE in polar-dielectrics, especially ferroelectrics based on several fundamental hypotheses and to search for answers on a few scientific questions. Especially, this research program developed a series of polar-dielectric materials with controlled nano- and meso-structures and carried out studies on how these structures affect the polar-ordering, correlations, energy landscapes, and consequently the entropy states at different phases and ECE. The key hypotheses of the program include: (i) Whether a large ECE can be obtained near the ferroelectric-paraelectric (FE-PE) transition in properly designed ferroelectrics which possess large polarization P and large ß (the coefficient in the thermodynamic Landau theory where the Gibbs free energy G = G = G0+ ½ a P2 +1/4 b P4 + 1/6 c P6 – EP, and a = ß (T-Tc), where b,c,ß and Tc are constants)? (ii)more » What determines/determine ß? Whether a ferroelectric material with built-in disorders, which disrupt the polar-correlations and enabling a large number of local polar-states, such as a properly designed ferroelectric relaxor, can achieve a large ECE? (iii) How to design a ferroelectric material which has flat energy landscape so that the energy barriers for switching among different phases are vanishingly small? What are the necessary conditions to maximize the number of coexisting phases? (iv) How to design ferroelectric materials with a large tunable dielectric response? That is, at zero electric field, the material possesses very low polar-correlation and hence a very small dielectric constant, under the application of electric field, the material develops long range polar-correlation and hence a high dielectric response. Studying and developing these materials will deepen our understanding on the polarization responses in strongly coupled materials and the roles of molecular and nano, meso-, and micro-scale defects and structures on the polarization responses. On the application front, besides ECE, these dielectrics will also have great impact on micro-electronics and communications. (v) The multi-field effect, besides the electric, elastic and even magnetic effects, could be made use of to tune the energy landscape of polar-materials and hence enhance the ECE. Hence the question is what are the suitable material systems to develop and maximize the multi-field effects? (vi) Besides solid dielectric, liquid dielectrics with properly designed molecular structures and dipolar coupling can also exhibit a large ECE near the dipolar order-disorder transition. The study of order-disorder transition and their influence on entropy change and ECE will provide additional avenue to study dielectrics and understand relationship between the polar-ordering and dipolar entropy in dielectrics. (vii) Besides the regular ECE in which applying an electric field will induce dipolar ordering, there are dielectric material systems which can exhibit negative ECE in which the applied field will reduce the dipolar ordering and anomalous ECE in which applying an electric field pulse will generate cooling only. The question is how to control and balance the nano- and meso-scale polar coupling in dielectrics to achieve such effects? ECE in dielectrics provides an interesting and effective avenue to probe the polar-correlation in dielectrics. Thus the study of ECE in polar-dielectrics, besides the application values, will also deepen our understanding of strongly coupled materials systems, phase transitions, and materials systems with nano- and meso-scale disorders. Through the efforts of this DoE program, we have developed understandings for many questions and materials approaches for many hypotheses listed above. The major accomplishments include: (i) The first one to show that a giant ECE can be obtained in bulk materials of ferroelectric P(VDF-TrFE) copolymer, which has a large ß coefficient and high polarization, near FE-PE transition.[1,3,12] (ii) The first who developed the theoretical analyses on the upper bound of dipolar entropy change in polar-materials and the general approach to maximize the coexisting phases with vanishingly small switching fields among the coexisting phases[10,23] Experimental results confirm these theoretical predictions.[24] (iii) The first to show that the relaxor ferroelectrics, due to built-in defects structures at nano- and meso scale, exhibit a giant ECE over a broad temperature range.[1,3,7,14] (iv) The first to show that a large ECE can be obtained near order-disorder transition in dielectric fluids such as liquid crystals with large dielectric anisotropy. Also the study developed a general approach for developing dielectric fluids to achieve a large electric field induced entropy change.[26] (v) We are starting to explore the multi-field effect (multiferroic effect) in nanocomposites in which there exist large dielectric contrasts between the matrix and nanofilelrs and showed that a significantly enhanced ECE compared with polymer matrix.[36] (vi) By facially tuning the nano- and meso-scale dipolar coupling, we are the first to show that an anomalous ECE can be obtained in a relaxor/normal ferroelectric blend.[39] (vii) Introduced and demonstrated that the internal bias field approach can be effective in enhancing the EC response at low electric field. The result is significant since for practical applications, a low applied field is highly desired. (viii) A high sensitivity ECE characterization system has been developed. This program has made major contributions to the advancement of the EC materials and understandings of EC phenomena. To reflect the advancement in the EC materials development and scientific understandings on ECE through in this time period (from Sept. 1, 2007 to May 2015), this final report is written based on the reports complied each year through the program. Some early works on the ECE which were obtained using the indirect method are not included in this report.« less
  1. Pennsylvania State Univ., University Park, PA (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DE-FG02-07ER46410 Final Technical Report
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Pennsylvania State Univ., University Park, PA (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Basic Energy Sciences (BES) (SC-22)
Contributing Orgs:
The Pennsylvania State University
Country of Publication:
United States