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Researchers Create Multiferroic Material

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 01:38PM

It can be easy to forget just how important the materials used in a computer or other devices are, as special properties are needed for these systems to work. As we approach the limit of some of the materials we are using currently, new materials need to be discovered to continue developing ever faster and more efficient devices. One goal some researchers have had is to create a multiferroic material, and now researchers at Berkeley Lab and Cornell University have realized exactly that.

Multiferroic materials combine the properties of a ferroelectric and ferromagnetic material, and both families of materials are used in many technologies today but in different ways. Ferrimagnets are used in hard drives to store data as magnetic polarization, and also in sensors, while ferroelectric materials can easily flip polarization in response to an electric field and will hold their polarized states without power being supplied. Both sets of properties are valuable, and by combining them in one material new kinds of low-power memory technologies could be created, as an electric or magnetic field could be used to change both the electric and magnetic properties of the material.

To achieve this, the researchers made their material alternate between monolayers of lutetium oxide and iron oxide, but at every tenth repeat of these single-single pairs, a second iron oxide layer was added. The ferromagnetic atoms in this arrangement change their alignment to follow the neighboring ferroelectric atoms when they were exposed to an electric field. This flipping was observed from 200 to 300 K, which spans from about -100 ºF to 80 ºF, meaning this material works at room temperatures. The next step is to reduce the energy needed for this rewriting from the 5 V the researchers used to half a volt, and eventually to produce a working multiferroic device.

Source: Berkeley Lab

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