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Electronically soft phases in manganites


The phenomenon of colossal magnetoresistance in manganites1 is generally agreed to be a result of competition between crystal phases with different electronic, magnetic and structural order; a competition which can be strong enough to cause phase separation between metallic ferromagnetic and insulating charge-modulated states2,3,4,5. Nevertheless, closer inspection of phase diagrams in many manganites reveals complex phases where the two order parameters of magnetism and charge modulation unexpectedly coexist6,7. Here we show that such experiments can be naturally explained within a phenomenological Ginzburg–Landau theory. In contrast to models where phase separation originates from disorder8 or as a strain-induced kinetic phenomenon9, we argue that magnetic and charge modulation coexist in new thermodynamic phases. This leads to a rich diagram of equilibrium phases, qualitatively similar to those seen experimentally. The success of this model argues for a fundamental reinterpretation of the nature of charge modulation in these materials, from a localized to a more extended ‘charge-density wave’ picture. The same symmetry considerations that favour textured coexistence of charge and magnetic order may apply to many electronic systems with competing phases. The resulting ‘electronically soft’ phases of matter with incommensurate, inhomogeneous and mixed order may be general phenomena in correlated systems.

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Figure 1: Wave vector of the modulation q/a* versus temperature.
Figure 2: Schematic phase diagram that results from the minimization of the free energy.
Figure 3: Magnetization in the doping–temperature plane within phase modulation approximation for a particular choice of parameters.
Figure 4: Example solutions of the total free energy when all the order parameters are allowed to change spatially.

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We thank L. Brey and N. Mathur for discussions. P.B.L. thanks the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory of the Los Alamos National Laboratory for hospitality. M.J.C. acknowledges Churchill College, University of Cambridge, for the award of a JRF. This work was supported by the EPSRC and through the EPSRC Magnetic Oxide Network.

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Correspondence to G. C. Milward.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Table

This file contains the values of the parameters used in each of the figures in the main text and Supplementary Information. The range of parameters that produces the best fit with experimental results is also discussed. (PDF 55 kb)

Supplementary Figure 1

Wave-vector versus temperature for two different sets of parameters, to compare with Figure 1 in the main text. (PDF 26 kb)

Supplementary Figure 2

Deviation from commensurability in the doping-temperature plane. (PDF 76 kb)

Supplementary Figure 3

Another example of the solution beyond the Phase Modulation Approximation to compare with Figure 4 in the main text. (PDF 29 kb)

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Milward, G., Calderón, M. & Littlewood, P. Electronically soft phases in manganites. Nature 433, 607–610 (2005).

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