Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Letter
  • Published:

Light-induced size changes in BiFeO3 crystals


Multifunctional oxides are promising materials because of their fundamental physical properties as well as their potential in applications1. Among these materials, multiferroics exhibiting ferroelectricity and magnetism are good candidates for spin electronic applications using the magnetoelectric effect, which couples magnetism and ferroelecticity. Furthermore, because ferroelectrics are insulators with a reasonable bandgap, photons can efficiently interact with electrons leading to photoconduction or photovoltaic effects2,3. However, until now, coupling of light with mechanical degrees of freedom has been elusive, although ferroelasticity is a well-known property of these materials. Here, we report on the observation, for the first time, of a substantial visible-light-induced change in the dimensions of BiFeO3 crystals at room temperature. The relative light-induced photostrictive effect is of the order of 10−5 with response times below 0.1 s. It depends on the polarization of incident light as well as applied magnetic fields. This opens the perspective of combining mechanical, magnetic, electric and optical functionalities in future generations of remote switchable devices.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: Schematic of the photoelastic stress measurements.
Figure 2: Time dependence of photostriction in BiFeO3.
Figure 3: Variation of photostriction with light polarization rotation.
Figure 4: Photostriction as a function of magnetic field.

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Dagotto, E. When oxides meet face to face. Science 318, 1076–1077 (2007).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Choi, T., Lee, S., Choi, Y. J., Kiryukhin, V. & Cheong, S-W. Switchable ferroelectric diode and photovoltaic effect in BiFeO3 . Science 324, 63–66 (2009).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Yang, S. Y. et al. Above-bandgap voltages from ferroelectric photovoltaic devices. Nature Nanotech. 5, 143–147 (2010).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Fiebig, M. Revival of the magnetoelectric effect. J. Phys. D 38, R123–R152 (2005).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Spaldin, N. A. & Fiebig, M. The renaissance of magnetoelectric multiferroics. Science 309, 391–392 (2005).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Eerenstein, W., Mathur, N. D. & Scott, J. F. Multiferroic and magnetoelectric materials. Nature 442, 759–765 (2006).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Wang, K. F., Liu, J. M & Ren, Z. F. Multiferroicity: The coupling between magnetic and polarization order. Adv. Phys. 58, 321–448 (2009).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Lebeugle, D. et al. Room temperature coexistence of large electric polarization and magnetic order in BiFeO3 single crystals. Phys. Rev. B 76, 024116 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Catalan, G. & Scott, J. F. Physics and applications of bismuth ferrite. Adv. Mater. 21, 2463–2485 (2009).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Appelbaum, I., Monsma, D. J., Russell, K. J., Narayanamurti, V. & Marcus, C. M. Spin-valve photodiode. Appl. Phys. Lett. 83, 3737–3739 (2003).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Bibes, M. & Barthélémy, A. Multiferroics: Towards a magnetoelectric memory. Nature Mater. 7, 425–426 (2008).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Meier, D. et al. Observation and coupling of domains in a spin-spiral multiferroic. Phys. Rev. Lett. 102, 107202 (2009).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Brody, P. S. Optomechanical bimorph actuator. Ferroelectrics 50, 27–32 (1983).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Poosanaas, P., Dogan, A., Thakoor, S. & Uchino, K. Influence of sample thickness on the performance of photostrictive ceramics. J. Appl. Phys. 84, 1508–1512 (1998).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Morikawa, Y. & Nakada, T. Bimorph type optical actuators using PLZT elements. Jpn. Soc. Mech. Eng. Int. J. 41, 860–866 (1998).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. Figielski, T. Photostriction effect in germanium. Phys. Status Solidi 1, 306–316 (1961).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Gauster, W. B. & Habing, D. H. Electronic volume effect in silicon. Phys. Rev. Lett. 18, 1058–1061 (1967).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Eisenbach, C. D. Isomerization of aromatic azo chromophores on poly(ethylacrylate) networks and photomechanical effect. Polymer 21, 1175–1179 (1980).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. Yu, Y., Nakano, M. & Ikeda, T. Directed bending of a polymer film by light. Nature 425, 145–145 (2003).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. Finkelmann, H., Nishikawa, E., Pereira, G. G. & Warner, M. A new opto-mechanical effect in solids. Phys. Rev. Lett. 87, 015501 (2001).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  21. Kundys, B. et al. Three terminal capacitance technique for magnetostriction and thermal expansion measurements. Rev. Sci. Instrum. 75, 2192–2196 (2004).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  22. Favero, I. & Karrai, K. Optomechanics of deformable optical cavities. Nature Photon. 3, 201–205 (2009).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. Eichenfield, M., Chan, J., Camacho, R. M., Vahala, K. J. & Painter, O. Optomechanical crystals. Nature 462, 78–82 (2009).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


We acknowledge support from the French contracts: MELOIC (ANR-08-P196-36) of the ‘Agence Nationale de la Recherche’ and BALISPIN (FF2008) from the ‘CNano Ile de France’.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



The idea to measure photostriction in BiFeO3 belongs to B.K. Experiments were carried out by B.K. under supervision and participation of M.V. B.K. and M.V. wrote the Letter. Samples were prepared by D.C. D.O.K. helped with discussion and manuscript writing.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to B. Kundys.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Kundys, B., Viret, M., Colson, D. et al. Light-induced size changes in BiFeO3 crystals. Nature Mater 9, 803–805 (2010).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing