New solitons harness both electric polarization and magnetism

Recent groundbreaking research in theoretical and experimental physics has achieved a remarkable feat – the creation of a diverse array of finely-sized, unique polarization structures known as solitons within a multiferroic material. While solitons have been observed in pure ferroelectrics, which possess polarization, this particular range of solitons had remained elusive within multiferroic materials, which boast both polarization and magnetic spin.

The significant findings were unveiled in a publication titled “Ferroelectric solitons crafted in epitaxial bismuth ferrite superlattices,” featured in Nature Communications. This collaborative endeavor involved an international team of physicists, including esteemed individuals such as Sukriti Mantri, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Arkansas, as well as research assistant professors Yousra Nahas and Sergei Prokhorenko. These researchers are part of the Computational Condensed Matter Physics group, led by the esteemed Distinguished Professor of physics, Laurent Bellaiche, who also contributed to the study.

Elaborating on the complexity of multiferroics, Mantri emphasized the challenges posed by competing and intricate degrees of freedom. The breakthrough was facilitated by the adept utilization of a specialized superlattice arrangement involving bismuth ferrite and strontium titanate, meticulously engineered by experimental collaborators at UNSW Sydney.

Solitons, noted Mantri, possess captivating and intricate polarization patterns, accompanied by their own distinctive electrical, optical, and topological properties. These attributes hold tremendous promise for a range of applications, spanning from memory and sensing devices to the realm of nanoelectronics. The true novelty lies in the revelation that this diverse spectrum of solitons can now be harnessed within a multiferroic material, a groundbreaking leap that broadens the functional potential of these solitons due to the presence of both electric polarization and magnetism.

Within multiferroics, the interplay of energy with magnetism and external/internal fields introduces fascinating possibilities. For instance, magnetic fields could exert influence over solitons, or conversely, solitons could impact magnetic spin arrangements.

This research underscores the significance of international collaborations, uniting distinct groups possessing complementary expertise, as aptly highlighted by Bellaiche.

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