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Multiferroic Applications of Nanoarchitectured, Solution-Processed Materials


This dissertation compiles work on sol-gel syntheses of multiferroic materials and applications thereof. Multiferroics, or materials that simultaneously exhibit multiple order parameters such as ferromagnetism, ferroelectricity, or ferroelasticity, may be fabricated by solution processing techniques. Specifically, these techniques may be used to control both the atomic and the nanoscale structures of piezoelectric lead zirconate titanate (PbZrxTi1−xO3 or PZT) and magnetostrictive cobalt ferrite (CoFe2O4 or CFO).

The first part of this work focuses on strain-coupling PZT and CFO into a magnetoelectric composite. A mesoporous CFO framework was synthesized using block copolymer templating, which was subsequently conformally filled by PZT by atomic layer deposition (ALD). The final porosity of the film is controlled by the ALD PZT layer, and we show that this porosity influences the magnetoelectric coupling of the composite. An ex situ external electric field is applied to the composite, and samples with the greatest porosity, and thus greatest mechanical flexibility, were able to accommodate strain transfer to the CFO, resulting in a greater reduction of the sample saturation magnetization.

The second part of this work focuses on using solution processing to control domain-level contributions to the material’s ferroic properties. An iterative spin coating process can be used to create PZT films of arbitrary thickness. Electric domains are generally pinned in nanoscale PZT thin films, but models of PZT films on the mesoscale must consider domain reorientation. As for CFO, solution processing may be used to control the CFO grain size, which in turn limits the size of its magnetic domains, and subsequently its static magnetic properties.

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