Disclosure of Double Exchange Bias Effect in Chromium (III) Oxide Nanoparticles.
In the last decade, the renewed interest in antiferromagnetic (AF) magnetoelectric (ME) materials has been driven by the challenging multifunctionality of spintronic devices. One of the most ambitious goals is to build exchange-biased ferromagnetic/AF junctions with electric field-controlled properties. In this context, the understanding of the modifications that size reduction induces in the magnetic properties of a material being both AF and ME holds the key to control the magnetic coupling at the interface. Here, we show that the spin arrangement in chromium (III) oxide core/shell nanoparticles changes significantly as a function of the radial distance from the nanoparticle center. While the nanoparticle core retains an AF structure, magnetic moments located on a thin surface shell are in a disordered spin-glass (SG)-like state. In addition, canted spins develop at the boundary of the ME AF core. These spins, which mediate a moderate AF/SG exchange coupling at low temperature, are exchange coupled to the AF core, thus giving rise to a lower yet more robust exchange bias effect, which persists up to the Neel temperature of the AF core.