X-ray Natural Circular Dichroism Imaging of Multiferroic Crystals

Platunov, Mikhail S.; Gudim, Irina A.; Ovchinnikova, Elena N. et. al. CRYSTALS. https://doi.org/10.3390/cryst11050531

The polarizing spectroscopy techniques in visible range optics have been used since the beginning of the 20th century to study the anisotropy of crystals based on birefringence and optical activity phenomena. On the other hand, the phenomenon of X-ray optical activity has been demonstrated only relatively recently. It is a selective probe for the element-specific properties of individual atoms in non-centrosymmetric materials. We report the X-ray Natural Circular Dichroism (XNCD) imaging technique which enables spatially resolved mapping of X-ray optical activity in non-centrosymmetric materials. As an example, we present the results of combining micro-focusing X-ray optics with circularly polarized hard X-rays to make a map of enantiomorphous twinning in a multiferroic SmFe3(BO3)4 crystal. Our results demonstrate the utility and potential of polarization-contrast imaging with XNCD as a sensitive technique for multiferroic crystals where the local enantiomorphous properties are especially important. In perspective, this brings a novel high-performance method for the characterization of structural changes associated with phase transitions and identification of the size and spatial distribution of twin domains.