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Electric and antiferromagnetic chiral textures at multiferroic domain walls

An Author Correction to this article was published on 12 November 2019

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Chirality, a foundational concept throughout science, may arise at ferromagnetic domain walls1 and in related objects such as skyrmions2. However, chiral textures should also exist in other types of ferroic materials, such as antiferromagnets, for which theory predicts that they should move faster for lower power3, and ferroelectrics, where they should be extremely small and possess unusual topologies4,5. Here, we report the concomitant observation of antiferromagnetic and electric chiral textures at domain walls in the room-temperature ferroelectric antiferromagnet BiFeO3. Combining reciprocal and real-space characterization techniques, we reveal the presence of periodic chiral antiferromagnetic objects along the domain walls as well as a priori energetically unfavourable chiral ferroelectric domain walls. We discuss the mechanisms underlying their formation and their relevance for electrically controlled topological oxide electronics and spintronics.

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Fig. 1: Self-organized ferroelectric patterns and principle of the resonant X-ray diffraction experiments.
Fig. 2: Chiral ferroelectric structures at domain walls.
Fig. 3: Non-collinear magnetic structure in ferroelectric domains by neutron and resonant X-ray scattering.
Fig. 4: Chiral magnetic textures at ferroelectric domain walls seen in reciprocal and real spaces.

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We thank H. Popescu for assistance during the synchrotron runs, A. Barbier for discussions regarding diffraction and Y. Joly and G. van der Laan for discussions about the theoretical aspects of resonant X-ray scattering. We also acknowledge the company QNAMI for providing all-diamond scanning tips containing single NV defects. V.J. acknowledges financial support by the European Research Council (ERC-StG-2014, Imagine) and the EU Quantum Flagship project ASTERIQS (820394). The authors also acknowledge support from the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR) through projects Multidolls, PIAF and SANTA well as the ‘Programme Transversal CEA ACOSPIN and ELSA’. This work was also supported by a public grant overseen by the ANR as part of the ‘Investissement d’Avenir’ programme (LABEX NanoSaclay, ref. ANR-10-LABX-0035).

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J.-Y.C., M.V. and N.J. planned the REXS experiment and carried it out with C.B. V.G. and S.F. prepared the samples and carried out the PFM measurements. B.D., D.K. and P.M. carried out the neutron measurements, while W.A., I.G., A.F. and V.J. carried out the NV magnetometry. T.C., J.T. and P.T. wrote, optimized and ran the simulation code. All authors participated in scientific discussions.

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Correspondence to M. Viret.

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Chauleau, JY., Chirac, T., Fusil, S. et al. Electric and antiferromagnetic chiral textures at multiferroic domain walls. Nat. Mater. 19, 386–390 (2020).

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