A new study provides insight into multiferroic materials, which could have substantive implications in fields such as data storage.
The study looked at lanthanum cobaltite (LaCoO3 or LCO), a thin crystalline film that, once grown on a substrate, can be analyzed through electron microscopy and polarized neutron reflectometry to measure electron density and differences in magnetization, respectively.
LCO is special because it is a ferroelastic material, meaning that its properties will change in response to a stressor and retain the changes after the stressor has been removed.
An ultrathin film of LCO—one whose thickness is about 12 nanometers, or 12 thousand-millionths of a meter—is especially unique because it is also a ferromagnet. The combination of being ferroelastic and a ferromagnet means ultrathin LCO is a multiferroic—a material with elastic and magnetic properties that can change under stress or by magnetic fields. This means the material could, in principle, record the stress of its environment as magnetic information.