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Observation of Skyrmions in a Multiferroic Material

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Science  13 Apr 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6078, pp. 198-201
DOI: 10.1126/science.1214143

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Harnessing the Magnetoelectric Effect

Some multiferroic materials exhibit the so-called magnetoelectric effect, in which an external magnetic field can cause electric polarization and an electric field can cause magnetic order. This is important because the manipulation of magnetic structures by electric means is technologically highly desirable. Seki et al. (p. 198) discovered spin whirlpools called skyrmions in the multiferroic material Cu2OSeO3 and observed a magnetoelectric coupling exerted by the skyrmions. The existence of skyrmions in an insulating magnetoelectric material holds promise for their future manipulation.

Abstract

A magnetic skyrmion is a topologically stable particle-like object that appears as a vortex-like spin texture at the nanometer scale in a chiral-lattice magnet. Skyrmions have been observed in metallic materials, where they are controllable by electric currents. Here, we report the experimental discovery of magnetoelectric skyrmions in an insulating chiral-lattice magnet Cu2OSeO3 through Lorentz transmission electron microscopy and magnetic susceptibility measurements. We find that the skyrmion can magnetically induce electric polarization. The observed magnetoelectric coupling may potentially enable the manipulation of the skyrmion by an external electric field without losses due to joule heating.

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