Date of this Version
PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS 126, 057601 (2021). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.126.057601
Ferroelectric tunnel junctions (FTJs), which consist of two metal electrodes separated by a thin ferroelectric barrier, have recently aroused significant interest for technological applications as nanoscale resistive switching devices. So far, most existing FTJs have been based on perovskite-oxide barrier layers. The recent discovery of the two-dimensional (2D) van der Waals ferroelectric materials opens a new route to realize tunnel junctions with new functionalities and nm-scale dimensions. Because of the weak coupling between the atomic layers in these materials, the relative dipole alignment between them can be controlled by applied voltage. This allows transitions between ferroelectric and antiferroelectric orderings, resulting in significant changes of the electronic structure. Here, we propose to realize 2D antiferroelectric tunnel junctions (AFTJs), which exploit this new functionality, based on bilayer In2X3 (X = S, Se, Te) barriers and different 2D electrodes. Using first-principles density functional theory calculations, we demonstrate that the In2X3 bilayers exhibit stable ferroelectric and antiferroelectric states separated by sizable energy barriers, thus supporting a nonvolatile switching between these states. Using quantum-mechanical modeling of the electronic transport, we explore in-plane and out-of-plane tunneling across the In2S3 van der Waals bilayers, and predict giant tunneling electroresistance effects and multiple nonvolatile resistance states driven by ferroelectric-antiferroelectric order transitions. Our proposal opens a new route to realize nanoscale memory devices with ultrahigh storage density using 2D AFTJs.