Properties of BaTiO3/BaZrO3 ferroelectric superlattices with competing instabilities
Properties of (BaTiO3)1/(BaZrO3)n ferroelectric superlattices (SLs) with n = 1−7 grown in the  direction are calculated from first principles within the density functional theory. It is revealed that the quasi-two-dimensional ferroelectricity occurs in these SLs in the barium titanate layers with a thickness of one unit cell; the polarization is oriented in the layer plane and weakly interacts with the polarization in neighboring layers. The ferroelectric ordering energy and the height of the barrier separating different orientational states of polarization in these SLs are sufficiently large to provide the formation of an array of independent polarized planes at 300 K. The effect of the structural instability on the properties of SLs is considered. It is shown that the ground state is a result of simultaneous condensation of the Γ15 polar phonon and phonons at the M point (for SLs with even period) or at the A point (for SLs with odd period); it is a polar structure with out-of-phase rotations of the octahedra in neighboring layers, in which highly polarized layers are spatially separated from the layers with strong rotations. The competition between the ferroelectric and structural instabilities in biaxially compressed SLs manifests itself in that the switching on of the octahedra rotations leads to an abrupt change of the polarization direction and can cause an improper ferroelectric phase transition to occur. It was shown that the experimentally observed z-component of polarization in the SLs can appear only as a result of the mechanical stress relaxation.
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