Flexoelectric nanodomains in rare-earth iron garnet thin films under strain gradient



Hiroyasu Yamahara*, Bin Feng, Munetoshi Seki, Masaki Adachi, Md Shamim Sarker, Takahito Takeda, Masaki Kobayashi, Ryo Ishikawa, Yuichi Ikuhara, Yasuo Cho, Hitoshi Tabata


Flexoelectricity is a universal property associated with dielectric materials, wherein they exhibit remanent polarization induced by strain gradient. Rare-earth iron garnets, R3Fe5O12, are ferrimagnetic insulators with useful magnetic properties. However, they are unlikely to show remanent dielectric polarization because of their centrosymmetric structure. Here, to induce flexoelectricity, we investigate various rare-earth iron-garnet thin films deposited on lattice-mismatched substrates. Atomic-resolution scanning transmission electron microscopy demonstrates the presence of 15 nm-thick strain gradients in Sm3Fe5O12 films between epitaxially strained tetragonal and relaxed cubic structures. Furthermore, negatively polarized nanodomains are imaged by scanning nonlinear dielectric microscopy. It suggests a generation of flexoelectricity, where the polarization points down toward the substrate in the out-of-plane direction. X-ray magnetic circular dichroism demonstrates hysteresis with a large coercive field originating from the strain-gradient layer. We believe that our study will pave the way for achieving dielectric polarization even in nonpolar centrosymmetric materials by strain-gradient engineering.

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