Laser-Induced Crystals within Glass Matrix Maintain Full Ferroelectric Functionality

For the first time, an international team of researchers from Lehigh University, Lebanon Valley College, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Corning Inc. has shown that laser-fabricated crystals confined in a glass matrix are capable of maintaining complete ferroelectric functionality.

Conceptual rendering of global communications systems. (Vertigo3d) (Image credit: Lehigh University)

This includes the ability to uniformly orient and reverse orient the ferroelectric domains with an electric field―despite the fact that the crystal is strongly confined by the surrounding glass.

Volkmar Dierolf, Professor Chair, Department of Physics, Lehigh University

Dierolf is also one of the researchers who worked on the experiments that led to these findings. In addition, he holds a joint appointment with Lehigh University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering division of the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science. Dierolf is co-Principal Investigator on Crystal in Glass—a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded project, together with Himanshu Jain, Principal Investigator and Diamond Distinguished Chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Lehigh University. The research team has turned out to be a world-class leader in fabricating single crystals in glass through localized laser irradiation.

The researchers performed the first comprehensive examination of the ferroelectric and piezoelectric properties of crystals induced by lasers within in a glass matrix. They observed that the “as-grown crystals” exhibit an intricate ferroelectric domain structure that can be exploited by applying a DC bias. The study results have appeared online in MRS Communications in a paper titled, “Ferroelectric domain engineering of lithium niobate single crystal confined in glass.”

The findings open up the possibility of a new collection of optical devices that use fully functional laser-fabricated crystals in glass which rely on the precise control of the ferroelectric domain structure of the crystal.

Keith Veenhuizen, Study Lead Author and Assistant Professor, Department of Physics, Lebanon Valley College

The study builds on the research he performed as a graduate student at Lehigh University.

Such a technology can be used in contemporary fiber optic technology applied for data transmission.

Being able to embed such functional single crystal architectures within a glass enables high efficiency coupling to existing glass fiber networks. Such low loss links―that maximize performance―are of particular importance for future quantum information transfer system that are projected to take over the current schemes for optical communication.

Volkmar Dierolf, Professor Chair, Department of Physics, Lehigh University

Apart from Dierolf, Veenhuizen, and Jain, the study’s co-authors are Sean McAnany, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Lehigh University; Rama Vasudevan, Sergei V. Kalinin, and Stephen Jesse, Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, Oak Ridge National Laboratory; and Bruce Aitken and Daniel Nolan, Corning Incorporated.

The study was funded by the National Science Foundation through the GOALI program for association between Lehigh University and Corning Incorporated (DMR-1508177).

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