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Light-Induced Currents at Domain Walls in Multiferroic BiFeO3.


Multiferroic BiFeO3 (BFO) films with spontaneously formed periodic stripe domains can generate above-gap open circuit voltages under visible light illumination; nevertheless the underlying mechanism behind this intriguing optoelectronic response has not been understood to date. Here, we make contact-free measurements of light-induced currents in epitaxial BFO films via detecting terahertz radiation emanated by these currents, enabling a direct probe of the intrinsic charge separation mechanisms along with quantitative measurements of the current amplitudes and their directions. In the periodic stripe samples, we find that the net photocurrent is dominated by the charge separation across the domain walls, whereas in the monodomain samples the photovoltaic response arises from a bulk shift current associated with the non-centrosymmetry of the crystal. The peak current amplitude driven by the charge separation at the domain walls is found to be 2 orders of magnitude higher than the bulk shift current response, indicating the prominent role of domain walls acting as nanoscale junctions to efficiently separate photogenerated charges in the stripe domain BFO films. These findings show that domain-wall-engineered BFO thin films offer exciting prospects for ferroelectric-based optoelectronics, as well as bias-free strong terahertz emitters.

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