Indexed on: 17 Nov '15Published on: 17 Nov '15Published in: Physics - Materials Science
Ferroelectric materials possess a spontaneous electric polarization and may be utilized in various technological applications ranging from non-volatile memories to solar cells and light polarizers. Recently, hexagonal rare-earth manganites, h-RMnO$_3$ (R is a rare-earth ion) have attracted considerable interest due to their intricate multiferroic properties and improper ferroelectricity characterized by a sizable remnant polarization and high Curie temperature. Here, we demonstrate that these compounds can serve as very efficient photovoltaic materials and, in addition, possess remarkable optical anisotropy properties. Using first-principles methods based on density-functional theory and considering h-TbMnO$_3$ as a representative manganite, we predict a strong light absorption of this material in the solar spectrum range, resulting in the maximum light-to-electricity energy conversion efficiency up to 33%. We also predict an extraordinary optical linear dichroism and linear birefringence properties of h-TbMnO$_3$ in a broad range of optical frequencies. These results uncover the unexplored potential of hexagonal rare-earth manganites to serve as photovoltaics in solar cells and as absorptive and birefringent light polarizers.