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Controlling magnetism with electric fields
Date:8/23/2011

An international team of researchers from France and Germany has developed a new material which is the first to react magnetically to electrical fields at room temperature. Previously this was only at all possible at extremely low and unpractical temperatures. Electric fields are technically much easier and cheaper to produce than magnetic fields for which you need power guzzling coils. The researchers have now found a way to control magnetism using electric fields at "normal" temperatures, thus fulfilling a dream. The high-precision experiments were made possible in a highly specialized measuring chamber built by the Ruhr-Universitt Bochum at the Helmholtz Centre in Berlin. The research group from Paris and Berlin with the participation of RUB scientists reported on their findings in "Nature Materials".

ALICE in wonderland

The "multiferroic" property of the new material was demonstrated in the measuring chamber ALICE so called because, like "Alice in wonderland" it can look beneath the surface of things. Here a specific range of X-rays is used to study magnetic nanostructures. The measuring chamber, developed by Bochum's physicists and funded by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research, has successfully been in use since 2007 at the electron storage ring BESSY II in Berlin. With the newly discovered material properties of BaTiO3 (barium-titanium oxide), in future it will be possible to design components such as data storage and logical switches that are controlled with electric instead of magnetic fields.

Ferromagnetic and ferroelectric properties

Ferromagnetic materials such as iron can be affected by magnetic fields. All atomic magnetic dipoles are aligned in the magnetic field. In ferroelectric materials, electric dipoles - two separate and opposite charges - replace the magnetic dipoles, so they can be aligned in an electric field. In very rare cases, so-called multiferroic materials respond
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Contact: Professor Dr. Hartmut Zabel
hartmut.zabel@rub.de
49-234-322-3649
Ruhr-University Bochum
Source:Eurekalert

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