First-time synthesis of a magnetoelectric core–shell composite via conventional solid-state reaction†
In recent years, multiferroics and magnetoelectrics have demonstrated their potential for a variety of applications. However, no magnetoelectric material has been translated to a real application yet. Here, we report for the first time that a magnetoelectric core–shell ceramic, is synthesized via a conventional solid-state reaction, where core–shell grains form during a single sintering step. The core consists of ferrimagnetic CoFe2O4, which is surrounded by a ferroelectric shell consisting of (BiFeO3)x–(Bi1/2K1/2TiO3)1−x. We establish the core–shell nature of these grains by transmission-electron microscopy (TEM) and find an epitaxial crystallographic relation between core and shell, with a lattice mismatch of 6 ± 0.7%. The core–shell grains exhibit exceptional magnetoelectric coupling effects that we attribute to the epitaxial connection between the magnetic and ferroelectric phase, which also leads to magnetic exchange coupling as demonstrated by neutron diffraction. Apparently, ferrimagnetic CoFe2O4 cores undergo a non-centrosymmetric distortion of the crystal structure upon epitaxial strain from the shell, which leads to simultaneous ferrimagnetism and piezoelectricity. We conclude that in situ core–shell ceramics offer a number of advantages over other magnetoelectric composites, such as lower leakage current, higher density and absence of substrate clamping effects. At the same time, the material is predestined for application, since its preparation is cost-effective and only requires a single sintering step. This discovery adds a promising new perspective for the application of magnetoelectric materials.