Observation of coupled magnetic and electric domains

Nature. 2002 Oct 24;419(6909):818-20. doi: 10.1038/nature01077.

Abstract

Ferroelectromagnets are an interesting group of compounds that complement purely (anti-)ferroelectric or (anti-)ferromagnetic materials--they display simultaneous electric and magnetic order. With this coexistence they supplement materials in which magnetization can be induced by an electric field and electrical polarization by a magnetic field, a property which is termed the magnetoelectric effect. Aside from its fundamental importance, the mutual control of electric and magnetic properties is of significant interest for applications in magnetic storage media and 'spintronics'. The coupled electric and magnetic ordering in ferroelectromagnets is accompanied by the formation of domains and domain walls. However, such a cross-correlation between magnetic and electric domains has so far not been observed. Here we report spatial maps of coupled antiferromagnetic and ferroelectric domains in YMnO3, obtained by imaging with optical second harmonic generation. The coupling originates from an interaction between magnetic and electric domain walls, which leads to a configuration that is dominated by the ferroelectromagnetic product of the order parameters.