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.

Volume 592 Issue 7854, 15 April 2021

Atomic whirls in motion

Vortices of electrical polarization — similar to skyrmions found in magnets — have been seen in ferroelectric materials, but little is known about their dynamics. In this week’s issue, Haidan Wen and his colleagues probe the phenomenon and reveal the unique dynamical nature of these vortices. The researchers used ultrashort electric-field pulses in the form of terahertz radiation to create vortex motion in a ferroelectric film, and then used femtosecond X-ray diffraction to examine the movement of the vortices. They found that the polar vortices that are smaller than skyrmions have higher frequencies, and identified a tunable, low-frequency mode called a vortexon, which corresponds to collective atomic motion arising from interactions between the vortices and the atomic lattice. The researchers suggest that the properties of the vortices could find application in ultrahigh-speed data processing.

Cover image: Image by Ellen Weiss/Argonne National Laboratory.

This Week

Top of page ⤴

News in Focus

Top of page ⤴

Books & Arts

Top of page ⤴


Top of page ⤴


Top of page ⤴


  • News & Views

    • Phase transitions in certain non-equilibrium systems cannot be described using the classical laws of statistical mechanics. A mathematical approach involving features called exceptional points now solves this far-reaching problem.

      • Cynthia J. O. Reichhardt
      • Charles Reichhardt
      News & Views
    • A stress hormone has been found to signal through skin cells to repress the activation of hair-follicle stem cells in mice. When this signalling is blocked, hair growth is stimulated. Stressed humans, watch out.

      • Rui Yi
      News & Views
    • Vortices of electrical polarization have been observed to vibrate at extremely high frequencies in a material called a ferroelectric. Such motion could be directly controlled by electric fields for ultrafast data processing.

      • Igor Luk’yanchuk
      • Valerii M. Vinokur
      News & Views
    • A mechanism has been found in fruit flies that enables cells called astrocytes to signal to neurons, closing a developmental window during which locomotor behaviour is shaped.

      • Laura Sancho
      • Nicola J. Allen
      News & Views
  • Articles

    • A theoretical study of non-reciprocity in collective phenomena reveals the emergence of time-dependent phases heralded by exceptional points in contexts ranging from synchronization and flocking to pattern formation.

      • Michel Fruchart
      • Ryo Hanai
      • Vincenzo Vitelli
    • The pressure dependence and magnetic field dependence of the specific heat of a quantum magnet, SrCu2(BO3)2, demonstrate that its phase diagram contains a line of first-order transitions terminating at a critical point, in analogy with water.

      • J. Larrea Jiménez
      • S. P. G. Crone
      • F. Mila
    • A dynamical study shows that vortices of electrical polarization have higher frequencies and smaller size than their magnetic counterparts, properties that are promising for electric-field-driven data processing.

      • Qian Li
      • Vladimir A. Stoica
      • Haidan Wen
    • Incorporation of the pseudo-halide anion formate during the fabrication of α-FAPbI3 perovskite films eliminates deleterious iodide vacancies, yielding solar cell devices with a certified power conversion efficiency of 25.21 per cent and long-term operational stability.

      • Jaeki Jeong
      • Minjin Kim
      • Jin Young Kim
    • A model for eruptions resulting in caldera collapse reconciles observations of quasi-periodic stick–slip events along annular faults and the large erupted volumes characteristic of such events, highlighting the role of topography-generated pressures.

      • Alberto Roman
      • Paul Lundgren
    • Using a globally coordinated strategic conservation framework to plan an increase in ocean protection through marine protected areas can yield benefits for biodiversity, food provisioning and carbon storage.

      • Enric Sala
      • Juan Mayorga
      • Jane Lubchenco
    • Analyses of a global database reveal that in many developing countries progress in learning remains limited despite increasing enrolment in primary and secondary education, and uncover links between human capital and economic development.

      • Noam Angrist
      • Simeon Djankov
      • Harry A. Patrinos
      Article Open Access
    • Complementary types of retinal ganglion cell form mosaics with receptive fields that are farther apart than would be expected by chance, supporting the efficient coding of natural scenes.

      • Suva Roy
      • Na Young Jun
      • Greg D. Field
    • The duration of a critical period of plasticity in the developing Drosophila motor circuit, during which motor neurons display activity-dependent refinement of neurite structure and connectivity, is dependent on astrocyte to motor neuron Neuroligin–Neurexin signalling.

      • Sarah D. Ackerman
      • Nelson A. Perez-Catalan
      • Chris Q. Doe
    • Stress inhibits  hair growth in mice through the release of the stress hormone corticosterone from the adrenal glands, which inhibits the activation of hair follicle stem cells by suppressing the expression of a secreted factor, GAS6, from the dermal niche.

      • Sekyu Choi
      • Bing Zhang
      • Ya-Chieh Hsu
    • The 501Y.V2 variant of SARS-CoV-2 in South Africa became dominant over other variants within weeks of its emergence, suggesting that this variant is linked to increased transmissibility or immune escape.

      • Houriiyah Tegally
      • Eduan Wilkinson
      • Tulio de Oliveira
    • Liver resident CD8 T cells have an essential role in immunopathology in a mouse model of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, by becoming auto-aggressive following sequential transcriptional and metabolic activation steps .

      • Michael Dudek
      • Dominik Pfister
      • Percy A. Knolle
    • In hepatocellular carcinoma driven by non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, aberrant T cell activation and impaired immune surveillance seem to make hepatocellular carcinoma less responsive to anti-PD1 or anti-PDL1 immunotherapy.

      • Dominik Pfister
      • Nicolás Gonzalo Núñez
      • Mathias Heikenwalder
      Article Open Access
    • Investigations in mice using parabiosis and cohousing experiments reveal that nonlymphoid organs serve as reservoirs of tissue-autonomous cellular immunity, leading to the decentralization of organism-level immune homeostasis.

      • Sathi Wijeyesinghe
      • Lalit K. Beura
      • David Masopust
Top of page ⤴
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


Quick links