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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.

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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.


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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’.

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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.

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Correspondence to B. Kundys.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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

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