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Ferroelectric incommensurate spin crystals

DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-04260-1 DOI Help

Authors: Dorin Rusu (University of Warwick) , Jonathan J. P. Peters (University of Warwick; Trinity College Dublin) , Thomas P. A. Hase (University of Warwick) , James A. Gott (University of Warwick) , Gareth A. A. Nisbet (Diamond Light Source) , Jörg Strempfer (Argonne National Laboratory) , Daniel Haskel (Argonne National Laboratory) , Samuel D. Seddon (University of Warwick) , Richard Beanland (University of Warwick) , Ana M. Sanchez (University of Warwick) , Marin Alexe (University of Warwick)
Co-authored by industrial partner: No

Type: Journal Paper
Journal: Nature , VOL 602 , PAGES 240 - 244

State: Published (Approved)
Published: February 2022
Diamond Proposal Number(s): 25569

Open Access Open Access

Abstract: Ferroics, especially ferromagnets, can form complex topological spin structures such as vortices1 and skyrmions when subjected to particular electrical and mechanical boundary conditions. Simple vortex-like, electric-dipole-based topological structures have been observed in dedicated ferroelectric systems, especially ferroelectric–insulator superlattices such as PbTiO3/SrTiO3, which was later shown to be a model system owing to its high depolarizing field. To date, the electric dipole equivalent of ordered magnetic spin lattices driven by the Dzyaloshinskii–Moriya interaction (DMi) has not been experimentally observed. Here we examine a domain structure in a single PbTiO3 epitaxial layer sandwiched between SrRuO3 electrodes. We observe periodic clockwise and anticlockwise ferroelectric vortices that are modulated by a second ordering along their toroidal core. The resulting topology, supported by calculations, is a labyrinth-like pattern with two orthogonal periodic modulations that form an incommensurate polar crystal that provides a ferroelectric analogue to the recently discovered incommensurate spin crystals in ferromagnetic materials. These findings further blur the border between emergent ferromagnetic and ferroelectric topologies, clearing the way for experimental realization of further electric counterparts of magnetic DMi-driven phases.

Journal Keywords: Ferroelectrics and multiferroics; Surfaces, interfaces and thin films

Diamond Keywords: Ferroelectricity; Ferromagnetism

Subject Areas: Materials, Physics

Instruments: I16-Materials and Magnetism

Other Facilities: 4-ID-D at Advanced Photon Source

Added On: 14/02/2022 11:47

Discipline Tags:

Surfaces Quantum Materials Hard condensed matter - electronic properties Multiferroics Physics Magnetism Materials Science interfaces and thin films

Technical Tags: