Surface Pyroelectricity in Cubic SrTiO3

Elena Meirzadeh, Dennis V. Christensen, Evgeniy Makagon, Hagai Cohen, Irit Rosenhek-Goldian, Erie H. Morales, Arghya Bhowmik, Juan Maria G. Lastra, Andrew M. Rappe, David Ehre, Meir Lahav, Nini Pryds, Igor Lubomirsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Symmetry-imposed restrictions on the number of available pyroelectric and piezoelectric materials remain a major limitation as 22 out of 32 crystallographic material classes exhibit neither pyroelectricity nor piezoelectricity. Yet, by breaking the lattice symmetry it is possible to circumvent this limitation. Here, using a unique technique for measuring transient currents upon rapid heating, direct experimental evidence is provided that despite the fact that bulk SrTiO3 is not pyroelectric, the (100) surface of TiO2-terminated SrTiO3 is intrinsically pyroelectric at room temperature. The pyroelectric layer is found to be ≈1 nm thick and, surprisingly, its polarization is comparable with that of strongly polar materials such as BaTiO3. The pyroelectric effect can be tuned ON/OFF by the formation or removal of a nanometric SiO2 layer. Using density functional theory, the pyroelectricity is found to be a result of polar surface relaxation, which can be suppressed by varying the lattice symmetry breaking using a SiO2 capping layer. The observation of pyroelectricity emerging at the SrTiO3 surface also implies that it is intrinsically piezoelectric. These findings may pave the way for observing and tailoring piezo- and pyroelectricity in any material through appropriate breaking of symmetry at surfaces and artificial nanostructures such as heterointerfaces and superlattices.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1904733
JournalAdvanced Materials
Issue number44
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2019


  • SrTiO
  • broken symmetry
  • strontium titanate
  • surface pyroelectricity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering

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