High-Frequency Intrinsic Dynamics of the Electrocaloric Effect from Direct Atomistic simulations

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We propose a computational methodology capable of harvesting isothermal heat and entropy change in molecular dynamics simulations. The methodology is applied to study high-frequency dynamics of the electrocaloric effect (ECE) in ferroelectric PbTiO3. ECE is associated with a reversible change in temperature under adiabatic application of electric field or with a reversible change in entropy under isothermal application of the electric field. Accurate assessment of electrocaloric performance requires the knowledge of three quantities: isothermal heat, isothermal entropy change, and adiabatic temperature change. Our methodology allows computations of all these quantities directly, that is, without restoring to the reversible thermodynamical models. Consequently, it captures both reversible and irreversible effects, which is critical for ECE simulations. The approach is well suited to address the dynamics of the ECE, which so far remains underexplored. We report the following basic features of the intrinsic dynamics of ECE: (i) the ECE is independent of the electric field frequency, rate of application, or field profile; (ii) the effect persists up to the frequencies associated with the onset of dielectric losses and deteriorates from there due to the creation of irreversible entropy; and (iii) in the vicinity of the phase transition and in the paraelectric phase the onset of irreversible dynamics occurs at lower frequency as compared to the ferroelectric phase. The latter is attributed to lower intrinsic soft-mode frequencies and and larger losses in the paraelectric phase.

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Physical Review B, v. 97, issue 18, art. 184104