Room-temperature ferroelectricity in supramolecular networks of charge-transfer complexes

Nature. 2012 Aug 23;488(7412):485-9. doi: 10.1038/nature11395.


Materials exhibiting a spontaneous electrical polarization that can be switched easily between antiparallel orientations are of potential value for sensors, photonics and energy-efficient memories. In this context, organic ferroelectrics are of particular interest because they promise to be lightweight, inexpensive and easily processed into devices. A recently identified family of organic ferroelectric structures is based on intermolecular charge transfer, where donor and acceptor molecules co-crystallize in an alternating fashion known as a mixed stack: in the crystalline lattice, a collective transfer of electrons from donor to acceptor molecules results in the formation of dipoles that can be realigned by an external field as molecules switch partners in the mixed stack. Although mixed stacks have been investigated extensively, only three systems are known to show ferroelectric switching, all below 71 kelvin. Here we describe supramolecular charge-transfer networks that undergo ferroelectric polarization switching with a ferroelectric Curie temperature above room temperature. These polar and switchable systems utilize a structural synergy between a hydrogen-bonded network and charge-transfer complexation of donor and acceptor molecules in a mixed stack. This supramolecular motif could help guide the development of other functional organic systems that can switch polarization under the influence of electric fields at ambient temperatures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anisotropy
  • Crystallization
  • Electricity*
  • Electron Transport
  • Electrons*
  • Hydrogen Bonding
  • Iron / chemistry*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Conformation
  • Organometallic Compounds / chemistry*
  • Surface Properties
  • Temperature*


  • Organometallic Compounds
  • Iron