Thermo-electro-mechanical behavior of ferroelectric nanodots
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The relatively recent discovery of the giant electrocaloric effect in ferroelectric ceramics may lead to new solid state cooling technologies that are energy efficient, reliable, portable, and environmentally friendly. This phenomenon, along with many other novel field-coupled properties of ferroelectrics, such as piezoelectricity, pyroelectricity, the electro-optic effect, phase changes, and polarization switching, make these materials useful for a wide range of technological applications including sensors, ultrasound, infrared cameras, sonar, diesel engine fuel injectors, ferroelectric random access memory, electro-optic modulators, vibration control, and electrocaloric cooling devices. Most of world’s current cooling and refrigeration technology is based upon the vapor-compression cycle of a refrigerant. Refrigeration systems that are based on this technology are bulky, require moving parts in the compressor and some of them have a less than optimal environmental impact. Thin film devices that utilize the electrocaloric effect could have a significant impact on refrigeration, heat pumps, air conditioning, energy scavenging, and computer cooling systems. Especially for the latter ones, the fan-based solutions are not likely to be able to keep up with the increases in computing power and the resulting current densities in integrated circuits. The ability to make quantitative predictions of the behavior of ferroelectric structures is of significant importance given the experimental efforts on the synthesis of barium titanate nanodots, nanorods, nanowires, and nanotubes, and lead zirconate titanate (PZT) thin films, and nanoparticles, and the potential for technological applications of these structures. The research contained herein implements a full thermo-electro-mechanical continuum framework and numerical methods based on phase-field modeling to study the domain and phase structure evolution associated with the electrocaloric effect in barium titanate ferroelectric nanodots.