Among the variety of magnetic textures available in nature, antiferromagnetism is one of the most ‘discrete’ because of the exact cancellation of its staggered internal magnetization. It is therefore very challenging to probe. However, its insensitivity to external magnetic perturbations, together with the intrinsic sub-picosecond dynamics, make it very appealing for tomorrow’s information technologies1. Thus, it is essential to understand the microscopic mechanisms governing antiferromagnetic domains to achieve accurate manipulation and control. Using optical second-harmonic generation, a unique and laboratory-available tool2, we succeeded in imaging with sub-micrometre resolution both electric and antiferromagnetic orders in the model multiferroic BiFeO3. We show here that antiferromagnetic domains can be manipulated with low power consumption, using sub-coercive electric fields and sub-picosecond light pulses. Interestingly, we also show that antiferromagnetic and ferroelectric domains can behave independently, thus revealing that magneto-electric coupling can lead to various arrangements of the two orders.
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The research leading to these results received funding from the ‘Région Ile de France’ under the contract ‘CALPHOSPIN’, from the ‘Agence Nationale de la Recherche’ project MULTIDOLLS (ANR-12-BS04-0010-02) and from the ‘programme transversal nanosciences Acospin’. We would also like to thank R. Belkhou, A. Mougin and A. Thiaville for the loan of some equipment and C. Mocuta for crystallographic measurements on the films. We acknowledge fruitful discussions with F. Charra, C. Fiorini, A. Zvezdin and M. Fiebig as well as invaluable technical support from G. LeGoff and G. Cannies. Lastly, we thank B. Dkhil and M. Bibes for a critical reading of the manuscript.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Chauleau, J., Haltz, E., Carrétéro, C. et al. Multi-stimuli manipulation of antiferromagnetic domains assessed by second-harmonic imaging. Nature Mater 16, 803–807 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/nmat4899
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