Multiferroics: a magnetic twist for ferroelectricity

Nat Mater. 2007 Jan;6(1):13-20. doi: 10.1038/nmat1804.


Magnetism and ferroelectricity are essential to many forms of current technology, and the quest for multiferroic materials, where these two phenomena are intimately coupled, is of great technological and fundamental importance. Ferroelectricity and magnetism tend to be mutually exclusive and interact weakly with each other when they coexist. The exciting new development is the discovery that even a weak magnetoelectric interaction can lead to spectacular cross-coupling effects when it induces electric polarization in a magnetically ordered state. Such magnetic ferroelectricity, showing an unprecedented sensitivity to ap plied magnetic fields, occurs in 'frustrated magnets' with competing interactions between spins and complex magnetic orders. We summarize key experimental findings and the current theoretical understanding of these phenomena, which have great potential for tuneable multifunctional devices.