Origin of ferroelectricity in high-T(c) magnetic ferroelectric CuO

Phys Rev Lett. 2012 May 4;108(18):187205. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.108.187205. Epub 2012 May 3.


Cupric oxide is a unique magnetic ferroelectric material with a transition temperature significantly higher than the boiling point of liquid nitrogen. However, the mechanism of high-T(c) multiferroicity in CuO remains puzzling. In this Letter, we clarify the mechanism of high-T(c) multiferroicity in CuO by using combined first-principles calculations and an effective hamiltonian model. We find that CuO contains two magnetic sublattices, with strong intrasublattice interactions and weakly frustrated intersublattice interactions. The weak spin frustration leads to incommensurate spin excitations that dramatically enhance the entropy of the multiferroic phase and eventually stabilize that phase in CuO.