Crystalline materials with broken inversion symmetry can exhibit a spontaneous electric polarization, which originates from a microscopic electric dipole moment. Long-range polar or anti-polar order of such permanent dipoles gives rise to ferroelectricity or antiferroelectricity, respectively. However, the recently discovered antiferroelectrics of fluorite structure (HfO2and ZrO2) are different: A non-polar phase transforms into a polar phase by spontaneous inversion symmetry breaking upon the application of an electric field. Here, we show that this structural transition in antiferroelectric ZrO2gives rise to a negative capacitance, which is promising for overcoming the fundamental limits of energy efficiency in electronics. Our findings provide insight into the thermodynamically forbidden region of the antiferroelectric transition in ZrO2and extend the concept of negative capacitance beyond ferroelectricity. This shows that negative capacitance is a more general phenomenon than previously thought and can be expected in a much broader range of materials exhibiting structural phase transitions.
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