Piezoelectric materials, which convert mechanical to electrical energy and vice versa, are typically characterized by the intimate coexistence of two phases across a morphotropic phase boundary. Electrically switching one to the other yields large electromechanical coupling coefficients. Driven by global environmental concerns, there is currently a strong push to discover practical lead-free piezoelectrics for device engineering. Using a combination of epitaxial growth techniques in conjunction with theoretical approaches, we show the formation of a morphotropic phase boundary through epitaxial constraint in lead-free piezoelectric bismuth ferrite (BiFeO3) films. Electric field-dependent studies show that a tetragonal-like phase can be reversibly converted into a rhombohedral-like phase, accompanied by measurable displacements of the surface, making this new lead-free system of interest for probe-based data storage and actuator applications.
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