Letter abstract

Nature Physics 3, 397 - 400 (2007)
Published online: 8 April 2007 | doi:10.1038/nphys586

Subject Categories: Condensed-matter physics | Materials physics

Spin–lattice instability to a fractional magnetization state in the spinel HgCr2O4

M. Matsuda1, H. Ueda2, A. Kikkawa3, Y. Tanaka3, K. Katsumata3, Y. Narumi2, T. Inami4, Y. Ueda2 & S.-H. Lee5


Magnetic systems are fertile ground for the emergence of exotic states1 when the magnetic interactions cannot be satisfied simultaneously owing to the topology of the lattice—a situation known as geometrical frustration2, 3. Spinels, AB2O4, can realize the most highly frustrated network of corner-sharing tetrahedra1, 2, 3. Several novel states have been discovered in spinels, such as composite spin clusters1 and novel charge-ordered states4, 5, 6. Here, we use neutron and synchrotron X-ray scattering to characterize the fractional magnetization state of HgCr2O4 under an external magnetic field, H. When the field is applied in its Néel ground state, a phase transition occurs at Happrox10 T at which each tetrahedron changes from a canted Néel state to a fractional spin state with the total spin, Stet, of S/2 and the lattice undergoes an orthorhombic to cubic symmetry change. Our results provide the microscopic one-to-one correspondence between the spin state and the lattice distortion.

  1. Quantum Beam Science Directorate, Japan Atomic Energy Agency, Tokai, Ibaraki 319-1195, Japan
  2. The Institute for Solid State Physics, The University of Tokyo, Kashiwa, Chiba 277-8581, Japan
  3. RIKEN SPring-8 Center, Harima Institute, Sayo, Hyogo 679-5148, Japan
  4. Japan Atomic Energy Agency, Sayo, Hyogo 679-5148, Japan
  5. Department of Physics, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia 22904-4714, USA

Correspondence to: S.-H. Lee5 e-mail: shlee@virginia.edu


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