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Observation of coupled magnetic and electric domains


Ferroelectromagnets are an interesting group of compounds that complement purely (anti-)ferroelectric or (anti-)ferromagnetic materials—they display simultaneous electric and magnetic order1,2,3. With this coexistence they supplement materials in which magnetization can be induced by an electric field and electrical polarization by a magnetic field, a property which is termed the magnetoelectric effect4. Aside from its fundamental importance, the mutual control of electric and magnetic properties is of significant interest for applications in magnetic storage media and ‘spintronics’2,3. The coupled electric and magnetic ordering in ferroelectromagnets is accompanied by the formation of domains and domain walls. However, such a cross-correlation between magnetic and electric domains has so far not been observed. Here we report spatial maps of coupled antiferromagnetic and ferroelectric domains in YMnO3, obtained by imaging with optical second harmonic generation. The coupling originates from an interaction between magnetic and electric domain walls, which leads to a configuration that is dominated by the ferroelectromagnetic product of the order parameters.

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Figure 1: Second harmonic spectra of FEM YMnO3 at 6 K.
Figure 2: Coexisting electric and magnetic domains of an YMnO3 sample at 6 K imaged with second harmonic light at 2.46 eV.


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We thank Y. Tanabe, E. Hanamura and K. Hagita for discussions, and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and the Alexander-von-Humboldt-Stiftung for financial support.

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Fiebig, M., Lottermoser, T., Fröhlich, D. et al. Observation of coupled magnetic and electric domains. Nature 419, 818–820 (2002).

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