Light-induced size changes in BiFeO3 crystals

Nat Mater. 2010 Oct;9(10):803-5. doi: 10.1038/nmat2807. Epub 2010 Jul 25.


Multifunctional oxides are promising materials because of their fundamental physical properties as well as their potential in applications. Among these materials, multiferroics exhibiting ferroelectricity and magnetism are good candidates for spin electronic applications using the magnetoelectric effect, which couples magnetism and ferroelectricity. Furthermore, because ferroelectrics are insulators with a reasonable bandgap, photons can efficiently interact with electrons leading to photoconduction or photovoltaic effects. However, until now, coupling of light with mechanical degrees of freedom has been elusive, although ferroelasticity is a well-known property of these materials. Here, we report on the observation, for the first time, of a substantial visible-light-induced change in the dimensions of BiFeO(3) crystals at room temperature. The relative light-induced photostrictive effect is of the order of 10(-5) with response times below 0.1 s. It depends on the polarization of incident light as well as applied magnetic fields. This opens the perspective of combining mechanical, magnetic, electric and optical functionalities in future generations of remote switchable devices.

Publication types

  • Letter