New research reveals a previously unknown phase that strontium titanate can be found in. If you take a look at the image above, the red arrows indicate the rapid pulses of light that excite atoms in the crystal structure. This determines the material to shift into a new ferroelectric phase. The structure is then stabilized as a result of the vibrations emitted by other atoms (right panels).
It is widely believed that water can only exist in three phases: solid, liquid, and gas. In reality, there are more than ten known stages of solid ice, as the atoms can be arranged in many different ways. External forces, like pressure, temperature, or electricity, can determine materials to go through phase transformations, giving them new properties. This principle is used for piezoelectric materials, like microphones and ultrasound.
Strontium Titanate Has A Previously Unknown Phase
According to a new study published in Science, the metal oxide can go through a “hidden” phase when it is exposed to fast pulses of light, which gives it new ferroelectric properties, like the ability to separate positive and negative charges. The team of researchers experimented on strontium titanate. The theoretical basis for the study existed for more than a decade, but only know scientists were able to provide evidence of the phenomenon, with the help of additional knowledge gained from experimenting with terahertz frequencies in recent years.
The explanation for the phenomenon is that, when strontium titanate is exposed to light, its ions are pulled in opposing directions, based on their electric charge. In the future, the discovery will be used on applications-driven research, such as creating new materials or experimenting with nanomaterials. Researchers are excited about where this revolutionary breakthrough could lead. Finding a previously unknown phase of strontium titanate is indeed a groundbreaking feat, and it can “write” a new page in physics.
Jasmine holds a Master’s in Journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto and writes professionally in a broad variety of genres. She has worked as a senior manager in public relations and communications for major telecommunication companies, and is the former Deputy Director for Media Relations with the Modern Coalition. Jasmine writes primarily in our LGBTTQQIAAP and Science section.