Electric fields are known to favor long-range polar order through the aligning of electric dipoles in relation to Coulomb's force. Therefore, it would be surprising to observe a disordered polar state induced from an ordered state by electric fields. Here we show such an unusual phenomenon in a polycrystalline oxide where electric fields induce a ferroelectric-to-relaxor phase transition. The nonergodic relaxor phase with disordered dipoles appears as an intermediate state under electric fields during polarization reversal of the ferroelectric phase. Using the phenomenological theory, the underlying mechanism for this unexpected behavior can be attributed to the slow kinetics of the ferroelectric-to-relaxor phase transition, as well as its competition against domain switching during electric reversal. The demonstrated material could also serve as a model system to study the transient stages in first-order phase transitions; the slow kinetics does not require the use of sophisticated ultrafast tools.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
- Condensed Matter Physics