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Researchers 'stretch' a lackluster material into a possible electronics revolution
Date:8/18/2010

ITHACA, N.Y. It's the Clark Kent of oxide compounds, and on its own it is pretty boring. But slice europium titanate nanometers thin and physically stretch it, and then it takes on super hero-like properties that could revolutionize electronics, according to new Cornell research. (Nature, Aug. 19, 2010.)

Researchers report that thin films of europium titanate become both ferroelectric (electrically polarized) and ferromagnetic (exhibiting a permanent magnetic field) when stretched across a substrate of dysprosium scandate, another type of oxide. The best simultaneously ferroelectric, ferromagnetic material to date pales in comparison by a factor of 1,000.

Simultaneous ferroelectricity and ferromagnetism is rare in nature and coveted by electronics visionaries. A material with this magical combination could form the basis for low-power, highly sensitive magnetic memory, magnetic sensors or highly tunable microwave devices.

The search for ferromagnetic ferroelectrics dates back to 1966, when the first such compound a nickel boracite was discovered. Since then, scientists have found a few additional ferromagnetic ferroelectrics, but none stronger than the nickel compound that is, until now.

"Previous researchers were searching directly for a ferromagnetic ferroelectric an extremely rare form of matter," said Darrell Schlom, Cornell professor of materials science and engineering, and an author on the paper.

"Our strategy is to use first-principles theory to look among materials that are neither ferromagnetic nor ferroelectric, of which there are many, and to identify candidates that, when squeezed or stretched, will take on these properties," said Craig Fennie, assistant professor of applied and engineering physics, and another author on the paper.

This fresh strategy, demonstrated using the europium titanate, opens the door to other ferromagnetic ferroelectrics that may work at even higher tem
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Contact: Blaine Friedlander
bpf2@cornell.edu
607-254-8093
Cornell University
Source:Eurekalert

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