Flexomagnetism and vertically graded Néel temperature of antiferromagnetic Cr2O3 thin films
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Antiferromagnetic insulators are a prospective materials platform for magnonics, spin superfluidity, THz spintronics, and non-volatile data storage. A magnetomechanical coupling in antiferromagnets offers vast advantages in the control and manipulation of the primary order parameter yet remains largely unexplored. Here, we discover a new member in the family of flexoeffects in thin films of Cr2O3. We demonstrate that a gradient of mechanical strain can impact the magnetic phase transition resulting in the distribution of the Néel temperature along the thickness of a 50-nm-thick film. The inhomogeneous reduction of the antiferromagnetic order parameter induces a flexomagnetic coefficient of about 15 μB nm−2. The antiferromagnetic ordering in the inhomogeneously strained films can persist up to 100 °C, rendering Cr2O3 relevant for industrial electronics applications. Strain gradient in Cr2O3 thin films enables fundamental research on magnetomechanics and thermodynamics of antiferromagnetic solitons, spin waves and artificial spin ice systems in magnetic materials with continuously graded parameters.