A Conscious Coupling of Magnetic and Electric Materials

Scientists have successfully paired ferroelectric and ferrimagnetic materials so that their alignment can be controlled with a small electric field at near room temperatures, an achievement that could open doors to ultra low-power microprocessors, storage devices and next-generation electronics. The work, co-led by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and Cornell University, is described in a study to be published Sept. 22 in the journal Nature. The researchers engineered thin, atomically precise films of hexagonal lutetium iron oxide (LuFeO3), a material known to be a robust ferroelectric, but not strongly magnetic. Lutetium iron oxide consists of alternating single monolayers of lutetium oxide and single monolayers of iron oxide, and differs from a strong ferrimagnetic oxide that consists of alternating monolayers of lutetium oxide with double monolayers of iron oxide (LuFe2O4). The researchers found that by carefully adding one extra monolayer of iron oxide to every 10 atomic repeats of the single-single monolayer pattern, they could dramatically change the material’s properties and produce a strongly ferrimagnetic layer near room temperature. They then tested the new material to show that the ferrimagnetic atoms followed the alignment of their ferroelectric neighbors when switched by an electric field.”