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Aromatic bowl molecules could make new electronics

New candidate for organic ferroelectric material

by Sam Lemonick
March 4, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 8


Illustration showing bowl-to-bowl inversion of CnSS molecule.
Credit: Shunsuke Furukawa
Bowl-shaped aromatic molecules have ferroelectric properties as they flip inside and out.
Molecular structure of CnSS.

A bowl-shaped aromatic molecule could be a template for new flexible electronic materials (Nat. Commun. 2021, DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-21019-4). Shunsuke Furukawa and Masaichi Saito of Saitama University and Tomoyuki Akutagawa of Tohoku University focused on ferroelectric materials, whose dipole moments can be reversed using an electric field. Ferroelectrics are used in computer memory and in piezoelectric devices, which convert mechanical pressure into electric current. The team sought an organic alternative to conventional ferroelectrics, which contain rare or toxic metals. Scientists have demonstrated ferroelectric bowl-shaped molecules and supramolecular assemblies. Akutagawa, a physicist, was looking for new candidates when he met Furukawa and Saito through a π-aromaticity research project. Akutagawa recognized that low-molecular-weight, bowl-shaped aromatic molecules had ferroelectric possibility, and Furukawa and Saito proposed using variants that they had developed. The group found a sulfur-substituted molecule, CnSS (shown). Stacks of these molecules act as ferroelectrics as the bowl shapes flip inside and out. The researchers hope to find other molecules that will be ferroelectric without needing to be stacked.


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