Atomically engineered ferroic layers yield a room-temperature magnetoelectric multiferroic

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Abstract

Materials that exhibit simultaneous order in their electric and magnetic ground states hold promise for use in next-generation memory devices in which electric fields control magnetism1,2. Such materials are exceedingly rare, however, owing to competing requirements for displacive ferroelectricity and magnetism3. Despite the recent identification of several new multiferroic materials and magnetoelectric coupling mechanisms4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15, known single-phase multiferroics remain limited by antiferromagnetic or weak ferromagnetic alignments, by a lack of coupling between the order parameters, or by having properties that emerge only well below room temperature, precluding device applications2. Here we present a methodology for constructing single-phase multiferroic materials in which ferroelectricity and strong magnetic ordering are coupled near room temperature. Starting with hexagonal LuFeO3—the geometric ferroelectric with the greatest known planar rumpling16—we introduce individual monolayers of FeO during growth to construct formula-unit-thick syntactic layers of ferrimagnetic LuFe2O4 (refs 17, 18) within the LuFeO3 matrix, that is, (LuFeO3)m/(LuFe2O4)1 superlattices. The severe rumpling imposed by the neighbouring LuFeO3 drives the ferrimagnetic LuFe2O4 into a simultaneously ferroelectric state, while also reducing the LuFe2O4 spin frustration. This increases the magnetic transition temperature substantially—from 240 kelvin for LuFe2O4 (ref. 18) to 281 kelvin for (LuFeO3)9/(LuFe2O4)1. Moreover, the ferroelectric order couples to the ferrimagnetism, enabling direct electric-field control of magnetism at 200 kelvin. Our results demonstrate a design methodology for creating higher-temperature magnetoelectric multiferroics by exploiting a combination of geometric frustration, lattice distortions and epitaxial engineering.

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