Making a single material demonstrating magnetisation and electrical polarisation is said to be difficult because the electronic requirements for obtaining them in a material are typically contradictory: characteristics which favour polarisation often disfavour magnetisation. However, the researchers, from the University's School of Physical Sciences, showed that by making designed changes to a structure, it is possible to create these properties in a material – a perovskite, in this case – which initially displayed neither.
Professor Matthew Rosseinsky said: "We were able to demonstrate that magnetisation and polarisation are coupled by measuring the linear magnetoelectric coefficient, a key physical quantity for the integration of such materials in a device. This coupling arises because both properties are produced by the same single set atomic motions that we built in to the material.
"There are a number of challenges still to address, particularly switching the polarisation and making the material more electrically insulating, before applications of this material for information storage can be considered."