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Lead-Free Relaxor Ferroelectrics


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Feature size is a natural determinant of material properties. Its design offers the technological perspectives for material improvement. Grain size, crystallite size, domain width, and structural defects of different nature constitute the classical design elements. Common ferroelectric ceramics contain micrometer grain sizes and submicrometer domain widths. Domain wall mobility is a major contribution to their macroscopic material properties providing approximately half of the macroscopic output in optimized materials. The extension into the dynamic nanoworld is provided by relaxor ferroelectrics. Ionic and nanoscale field disorders form the base to a state with natural nanometer-size polar structures even in bulk materials. These polar structures are highly mobile and can dynamically change over several orders of magnitude in time and space being extremely sensitive to external stimuli. This yields among the largest dielectric and piezoelectric constants known. In this feature article, we want to outline how lead-free relaxors will offer a route to an environmentally safer option in this outstanding material class. Properties of uniaxial, planar, and volumetric relaxor compositions will be discussed. They provide a broader and more interesting scope of physical properties and features than the classical lead-containing relaxor compositions.