A mechanism that enhances the piezoelectric properties of non-toxic materials is reported in Nature Communications this week. This finding could pave the way for the fabrication of high-performance yet non-toxic piezoelectric materials for technological applications. The piezoelectric materials most commonly used in practical applications contain lead, a toxic element. By examining the role played by defects known as charged domain walls, Tomas Sluka and co-workers identify an unexpected mechanism through which these can lead to enhanced piezoelectric properties in lead-free materials.
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