5 June 2017

Coupled multiferroic domain switching in the canted conical spin spiral system Mn2GeO4

Despite remarkable progress in developing multifunctional materials, spin-driven ferro-electrics featuring both spontaneous magnetization and electric polarization are still rare. Among such ferromagnetic ferroelectrics are conical spin spiral magnets with a simultaneous reversal of magnetization and electric polarization that is still little understood. Such materials can feature various multiferroic domains that complicates their study. Here we study the multiferroic domains in ferromagnetic ferroelectric Mn2GeO4 using neutron diffraction, and show that it features a double-Q conical magnetic structure that, apart from trivial 180° commensurate magnetic domains, can be described by ferromagnetic and ferroelectric domains only. We show unconventional magnetoelectric couplings such as the magnetic-field-driven reversal of ferroelectric polarization with no change of spin-helicity, and present a phenomenological theory that successfully explains the magnetoelectric coupling. Our measurements establish Mn2GeO4 as a conceptually simple multiferroic in which the magnetic-field-driven flop of conical spin spirals leads to the simultaneous reversal of magnetization and electric polarization.
Facility: SINQ

Reference: T. Honda et al, Nature Communications 8, 15457 (2017)

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