Optically Induced Ferroelectric Polarization Switching in a Molecular Ferroelectric with Reversible Photoisomerization

Ferroelectrics usually exhibit temperature-triggered structural changes, which play crucial roles in controlling their physical properties. However, although light is very striking as a non-contact, non-destructive, and remotely controlled external stimuli, ferroelectric crystals with light-triggered structural changes are very rare, which holds promise for optical control of ferroelectric properties. Here, an organic molecular ferroelectric, N-salicylidene-2,3,4,5,6-pentafluoroaniline (SA-PFA), which shows light-triggered structural change of reversible photoisomerization between cis-enol and trans-keto configuration is reported. SA-PFA presents clear ferroelectricity with the saturate polarization of 0.84 μC cm−2, larger than those of some typical organic ferroelectrics with thermodynamically structural changes. Benefit from the reversible photoisomerization, the dielectric real part of SA-PFA can be reversibly switched by light. More strikingly, the photoisomerization enables SA-PFA to show reversible optically induced ferroelectric polarization switching. Such intriguing behaviors make SPFA a potential candidate for application in next-generation photo-controlled ferroelectric devices. This work sheds light on further exploration of more excellent molecular ferroelectrics with light-triggered structural changes for optical control of ferroelectric properties.

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