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In materials where two or more ordering degrees of freedom are closely matched in their free energies, coupling between them, or multiferroic behavior can occur. These phenomena can produce a very rich phase behavior, as well as emergent phases that offer useful properties and opportunities to reveal novel phenomena in phase transitions. The ordered alloy FeRh undergoes an antiferromagnetic to ferromagnetic phase transition at ~375 K, which illustrates the interplay between structural and magnetic order mediated by a delicate energy balance between two configurations. We have examined this transition using a combination of high-resolution x-ray structural and magnetic imaging and comprehensive x-ray magnetic circular dichroism spectroscopy. We find that the transition proceeds via a defect-driven domain nucleation and growth mechanism, with significant return point memory in both the structural and magnetic domain configurations. The domains show evidence of inhibited growth after nucleation, resulting in a quasi-2nd order temperature behavior.

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Scientific Reports, v. 8, art. 1778