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Direct Observation of Ferrimagnetism in a Multiferroic Hexagonal Ferrite

Multiferroics is a class of materials that exhibits a coexistence of electric and magnetic polarizations.  Coupling of these polarizations is potentially useful for energy-efficient information storage and processing. Hexagonal rare-earth ferrites (h-RFeO3, where R is rare-earth element and Fe is iron) are new family of multiferroic materials. Magnetic interactions between rare-earth and iron ions in h-RFeO3, may amplify the weak ferromagnetic moment of iron, making these materials more appealing as multiferroics. Using element-specific magnetic characterization techniques, Nebraska MRSEC researchers have elucidated the nature of the interaction between the rare-earth ion, ytterbium (Yb), and the iron ion, in multiferroic h-YbFeO3. Their results directly reveal anti-alignment of the magnetic moments of ytterbium  and iron at low temperature, known as a ferrimagnetic order. These findings suggest an important role which is played by the rare-earth ions in tuning the multiferroic properties of hexagonal ferrites (S. Cao et al, Phys. Rev. B 95, 224428 (2017)).