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The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
  • 2017-06-14 06:05:31
  • Article ID: 676311

Electrifying Magnetism

Researchers create materials with controllable electrical and magnetic properties, even at room temperature.

  • Credit: Image courtesy of Megan Holtz

    New materials with unique and useful properties can be made by taking materials with different desired properties and layering them at the atomic level. In this research, scientists made new materials by alternating layers of a material with special magnetic properties (LuFe2O4 (left)) and a material with special electronic properties (LuFeO3 (right)). Panels a-j show high-resolution images of the resulting “superlattice” structures for materials with 1 (a) to 10 (j) atomic sheets in the layer made up of the ferroelectric LuFeO3. The more atomic sheets in the layer, the more atomic level “rumpling” of the structure — indicated by the wavy appearance in the images — that drives the superlattice properties to allow electrically controlled magnetism at room temperature. Lutetium (Lu), iron (Fe), and oxygen (O) atoms are colored turquoise, yellow, and brown, respectively.

The Science

As computers and cell phones become smarter and faster, they use more electricity. More electricity means more heat. Dispelling that heat uses more energy. New materials that couple electric and magnetic states of a material could break this cycle. Scientists created a new material that displays electrically controlled magnetism at room temperature. They created the material by assembling alternating atomic layers of two oxide materials. They exploited geometric factors and atomic lattice distortions between the alternate materials.

The Impact

The study provides the insights needed to make materials with both magnetic and polarizable electronic properties at room temperature. With this research, scientists can now engineer artificial materials that have the desired properties. These materials could improve memory storage devices and sensors.


It is rare to find materials that operate at room temperature and display strong “multiferroic coupling” — a property that allows an electric field to control the direction of the electronic spin and a magnetic field that controls positive/negative electronic charge. Thus, the material has both ferroelectricity and ferromagnetism. Now, scientists have designed a new material that can operate at room temperature (281K). Using a synthesis approach with atomic control called molecular beam epitaxy, the team assembled an artificial material with alternating layers of lutetium iron oxide (LuFeO3, a ferroelectric material) and LuFe2O4 (a ferrimagnetic material). The team varied the number of atomic sheets in the LuFeO3 layer from 1 to 10. With 9 atomic sheets in the LuFeO3 layer, they induced a ferroelectric state in the LuFe2O4while simultaneously increasing the magnetic transition temperature from 240K (-27 F) in LuFe2O4 to 281K (46 F). The ferroelectric coupling to ferrimagnetism enables control of the magnetism by electric fields at 200K (-100 F). The team used methods insensitive to magnetic impurities (e.g., neutron diffraction) or electrical leakage (e.g., high-resolution electron microscopy) to substantiate the results, which were consistent with first-principles calculations. 


The research was primarily supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences (conceiving the project, thin film synthesis, variable temperature scanning transmission electron microscopy, density functional theory, and characterization), including support of the Advanced Light Source, an Office of Science user facility (x-ray dichroism); Semiconductor Research Corporation provided partial support (for transport measurements, some photoemission electron microscopy and some piezoresponse force microscopy). Support for graduate student and postdoctoral fellowships came from the following: Army Research Office, National Science Foundation (NSF), Swiss National Science Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Semiconductor Research Corporation, National Research Council, and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Other facilities were supported by the NSF (electron microscopy facility at Cornell, Cornell NanoScale Facility) and NIST (neutron scattering).


J.A. Mundy, C.M. Brooks, M.E. Holtz, J.A. Moyer, H. Das, A.F. Rebola, J.T. Heron, J.D. Clarkson, S.M. Disseler, Z. Liu, A. Farhan, R. Held, R. Hovden, E.R. Padgett, Q. Mao, H. Paik, R. Misra, L.K. Kourkoutis, E. Arenholz, A. Scholl, J.A. Brochers, W.D. Ratcliff, R. Ramesh, C.F. Fennie, P. Schiffer, D.A. Muller, and D.G. Schlom, “Atomically engineered ferroic layers yield a room-temperature magnetoelectric multiferroic.” Nature 537, 526 (2016). [DOI: 10.1038/nature19343]

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Researchers created an atomically thin material at Berkeley Lab and used X-rays to measure its exotic and durable properties that make it a promising candidate for a budding branch of electronics known as "spintronics."

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The Electrochemical Society and Toyota North America Announce 2017-2018 Fellowship Winners for Projects in Green Energy Technology

The ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship Selection Committee has chosen three winners who will receive $50,000 fellowship awards each for projects in green energy technology. The awardees are Dr. Ahmet Kusoglu, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Professor Julie Renner, Case Western Reserve University; and Professor Shuhui Sun, Institut National de la Rechersche Scientifique (INRS).

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Department of Energy Awards Six Research Contracts Totaling $258 Million to Accelerate U.S. Supercomputing Technology

Today U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced that six leading U.S. technology companies will receive funding from the Department of Energy's Exascale Computing Project (ECP) as part of its new PathForward program, accelerating the research necessary to deploy the nation's first exascale supercomputers.

Cynthia Jenks Named Director of Argonne's Chemical Sciences and Engineering Division

Argonne has named Cynthia Jenks the next director of the laboratory's Chemical Sciences and Engineering Division. Jenks currently serves as the assistant director for scientific planning and the director of the Chemical and Biological Sciences Division at Ames Laboratory.

Argonne-Developed Technology for Producing Graphene Wins TechConnect National Innovation Award

A method that significantly cuts the time and cost needed to grow graphene has won a 2017 TechConnect National Innovation Award. This is the second year in a row that a team at Argonne's Center for Nanoscale Materials has received this award.

Honeywell UOP and Argonne Seek Research Collaborations in Catalysis Under Technologist in Residence Program

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Follow the Fantastic Voyage of the ICARUS Neutrino Detector

The ICARUS neutrino detector, born at Gran Sasso National Lab in Italy and refurbished at CERN, will make its way across the sea to Fermilab this summer. Follow along using an interactive map online.

JSA Awards Graduate Fellowships for Research at Jefferson Lab

Jefferson Sciences Associates announced today the award of eight JSA/Jefferson Lab graduate fellowships. The doctoral students will use the fellowships to support their advanced studies at their universities and conduct research at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) - a U.S. Department of Energy nuclear physics laboratory managed and operated by JSA, a joint venture between SURA and PAE Applied Technologies.

Muon Magnet's Moment Has Arrived

On May 31, the 50-foot-wide superconducting electromagnet at the center of the Muon g-2 experiment saw its first beam of muon particles from Fermilab's accelerators, kicking off a three-year effort to measure just what happens to those particles when placed in a stunningly precise magnetic field. The answer could rewrite scientists' picture of the universe and how it works.

Seven Small Businesses to Collaborate with Argonne to Solve Technical Challenges

Seven small businesses have been selected to collaborate with researchers at Argonne to address technical challenges as part of DOE's Small Business Vouchers Program.

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New Class of Porous Materials Better Separates Carbon Dioxide from Other Gases

Enhanced stability in the presence of water could help reduce smokestack emissions of greenhouse gases.

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Grasses: The Secrets Behind Their Success

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New Perspectives Into Arctic Cloud Phases

Teamwork provides insight into complicated cloud processes that are important to potential environmental changes in the Arctic.

Mountaintop Plants and Soils to Become Out of Sync

Plants and soil microbes may be altered by climate warming at different rates and in different ways, meaning vital nutrient patterns could be misaligned.

If a Tree Falls in the Amazon

For the first time, scientists pinpointed how often storms topple trees, helping to predict how changes in Amazonia affect the world.

Turning Waste into Fuels, Microbial Style

A newly discovered metabolic process linking different bacteria in a community could enhance bioenergy production.

Department of Energy Awards Six Research Contracts Totaling $258 Million to Accelerate U.S. Supercomputing Technology

Today U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced that six leading U.S. technology companies will receive funding from the Department of Energy's Exascale Computing Project (ECP) as part of its new PathForward program, accelerating the research necessary to deploy the nation's first exascale supercomputers.


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