Magnetoelectric domain control in multiferroic TbMnO3

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Science  05 Jun 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6239, pp. 1112-1115
DOI: 10.1126/science.1260561

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Visualizing ferroelectric domains

Multiferroic materials support intertwined ferromagnetic and ferroelectric orders, with the magnetic field capable of controlling the electric order and vice versa. Matsubara et al. used second harmonic generation microscopy to visualize what happens to the ferroelectric domains in the multiferroic TbMnO3 when an externally applied magnetic field changes the direction of electric polarization by 90°. Unexpectedly, the domain walls, initially parallel to the polarization vector, did not change their shape or position. The resulting transition from neutral to charged domain walls may help in the development of future ferroelectric devices.

Science, this issue p. 1112


The manipulation of domains by external fields in ferroic materials is of major interest for applications. In multiferroics with strongly coupled magnetic and electric order, however, the magnetoelectric coupling on the level of the domains is largely unexplored. We investigated the field-induced domain dynamics of TbMnO3 in the multiferroic ground state and across a first-order spin-flop transition. In spite of the discontinuous nature of this transition, the reorientation of the order parameters is deterministic and preserves the multiferroic domain pattern. Landau-Lifshitz-Gilbert simulations reveal that this behavior is intrinsic. Such magnetoelectric correlations in spin-driven ferroelectrics may lead to domain wall–based nanoelectronics devices.

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