Abstract
Complex lowtemperatureordered states in chiral magnets are typically governed by a competition between multiple magnetic interactions. The chirallattice multiferroic Cu_{2}OSeO_{3} became the first insulating helimagnetic material in which a longrange order of topologically stable spin vortices known as skyrmions was established. Here we employ stateoftheart inelastic neutron scattering to comprehend the full threedimensional spinexcitation spectrum of Cu_{2}OSeO_{3} over a broad range of energies. Distinct types of high and lowenergy dispersive magnon modes separated by an extensive energy gap are observed in excellent agreement with the previously suggested microscopic theory based on a model of entangled Cu_{4} tetrahedra. The comparison of our neutron spectroscopy data with model spindynamical calculations based on these theoretical proposals enables an accurate quantitative verification of the fundamental magnetic interactions in Cu_{2}OSeO_{3} that are essential for understanding its abundant lowtemperature magnetically ordered phases.
Introduction
Chiral magnets form a broad class of magnetic materials in which longrange dipole interactions, magnetic frustration, or relativistic Dzyaloshinskii–Moriya (DM) interactions twist the initially ferromagnetic spin arrangement, thus leading to the formation of noncollinear incommensurate helical structures with a broken spaceinversion symmetry^{1,2,3,4}. Helical magnetic states occur in a very broad range of compounds including metals and alloys, semiconductors and multiferroics. From a fundamental point of view, the significance of such materials is due to the richness of their possible magnetic structures as compared to ordinary (commensurate and collinear) magnets. Perhaps the most prominent example is given by the topologically nontrivial longrange ordered states known as skyrmion lattices^{5,6,7}.
The interest in the multiferroic ferrimagnet Cu_{2}OSeO_{3} with a chiral crystal structure has been intensified in recent years after the discovery of a skyrmionlattice phase in this system^{8}, thus making it the first known insulator that exhibits a skyrmion order. It was shown soon afterwards that this skyrmion lattice can be manipulated by the application of either magnetic^{9} or electric^{10} field, and more recently also by chemical doping^{11}, which indicates a delicate balance of the magnetic exchange and DM interactions with the spin anisotropy effects. Understanding the complex magnetic phase diagram of Cu_{2}OSeO_{3} therefore requires detailed knowledge of the spin Hamiltonian with precise quantitative estimates of all interaction parameters, which can be obtained from measurements of the spinexcitation spectrum. Microscopic theoretical models that were recently proposed for the description of spin arrangements in Cu_{2}OSeO_{3} include five magnetic exchange integrals and five anisotropic DM couplings between neighbouring copper spins^{12,13,14,15,16}, yet their experimental verification was so far limited to thermodynamic data^{14}, terahertz electron spin resonance (ESR)^{15}, farinfrared^{17} and Raman spectroscopy^{18} that can only probe zonecentre excitations in reciprocal space. Here we present the results of inelastic neutron scattering (INS) measurements that reveal the complete picture of magnetic excitations in Cu_{2}OSeO_{3} accessible to modern neutron spectroscopy over the whole Brillouin zone and over a broad range of energies and demonstrate good quantitative agreement with spindynamical model calculations both in terms of magnon dispersions and dynamical structure factors.
Results
Crystal structure and Brillouin zone unfolding
The cubic copper(II)oxoselenite Cu_{2}OSeO_{3} crystallizes in a complex chiral structure with 16 formula units per unit cell (space group P2_{1}3, lattice constant a=8.925 Å)^{19}. This structure has been visualized, for instance, in refs 8, 14. For the discussion of magnetic properties relevant for our study, it is useful to consider only the magnetic sublattice of copper ions, which can be approximated by a facecentred cubic (fcc) lattice of identical Cu_{4} tetrahedra, as shown in Fig. 1a. This reduces the volume of the primitive unit cell fourfold with respect to the original simplecubic structure, resulting in only four Cu atoms per primitive cell. In reciprocal space, this simplified lattice possesses a larger ‘unfolded’ Brillouin zone with a volume of 4(2π/a)^{3} as shown in Fig. 1b with blue lines.
Existing theoretical models^{13,14,15} suggested that individual Cu_{4} tetrahedra represent essential magnetic building blocks of Cu_{2}OSeO_{3}. Because of the structural inequivalence of the copper sites within every tetrahedron, its magnetic ground state orients one of the four Cu^{2+} spins antiparallel to three others that are coupled ferromagnetically, resulting in a state with the total spin S=1. The interactions between neighbouring tetrahedral clusters are at least 2.5 times weaker than intratetrahedron couplings^{13,14,15} and lead to a ferromagnetic arrangement of their total spins below the Curie temperature, T_{C}=57 K. In addition, weak DM interactions twist the resulting ferrimagnetic state into an incommensurate helical spin structure propagating along the 〈001〉 direction with a pitch λ_{h}=63 nm, that is 100 times larger than the distance between nearestneighbour tetrahedra, which corresponds to the propagation vector k_{h}=0.010 Å^{−1} derived from smallangle neutronscattering data^{9}.
As the next step, we note that the same structure can be represented as a halffilled fcc lattice of individual Cu atoms. Indeed, if one supplements the lattice with an equal number of imaginary Cu_{4} tetrahedra by placing them within the voids of the original structure, as shown in Fig. 1a, a twice smaller fcc unit cell with lattice parameter a/2 can be introduced (red dashed lines). Its primitive cell contains on average one half of a copper atom and corresponds to the large ‘unfolded’ Brillouin zone with a volume of 32(2π/a)^{3} that is shown with red lines in Fig. 1b. As will be seen in the following, the dynamical structure factor representing the distribution of magnon intensities in Cu_{2}OSeO_{3} inherits the symmetry of this large Brillouin zone. The described unfolding procedure is therefore useful for reconstructing the irreducible reciprocalspace volume for the presentation of INS data. Throughout this paper, we will denote momentum space coordinates in reciprocal lattice units corresponding to the crystallographic simplecubic unit cell (1 r.l.u.=2π/a), whereas highsymmetry points will be marked in accordance to the large unfolded Brillouin zone as explained in Fig. 1b. Equivalent points from higher Brillouin zones will be marked with a prime.
Tripleaxis neutron spectroscopy
We start the presentation of our experimental results with the tripleaxis spectroscopy (TAS) data shown in Fig. 2. At low energies, the spectrum is dominated by an intense Goldstone mode with a parabolic dispersion, which emanates from the Γ′(222) wave vector and has the highest intensity at this point, as can be best seen from the thermalneutron data in Fig. 2a. Because this point corresponds to the centre of the large unfolded Brillouin zone, we can associate this lowenergy mode with a ferromagnetic spinwave branch anticipated from the theory for the collinear magnetically ordered state^{13}. Upon moving away from the zone centre along the (001) direction, its dispersion reaches a maximum of ∼12 meV, while its intensity is reduced continuously towards the unfoldedzone boundary. Much weaker replicas of the same ferromagnon branch can be also recognized at other points with integer coordinates, like (221) or (220), as they coincide with zone centres of the original crystallographic Brillouin zone but not the unfolded one. We have fitted individual energy scans in Fig. 2a with Gaussian peak profiles to extract the measured magnon dispersion shown as black dots.
For a closer examination of the lowenergy part of the ferromagnon branch around the Γ′(222) point, we also performed TAS measurements at a coldneutron spectrometer providing higher energy resolution, as shown in Fig. 2b,d. Here we see a parabolically dispersing ferromagnetic spinwave branch (squares) in good agreement with the dispersion obtained from the thermalneutron measurements (grey circles). The data are additionally contaminated with spurious Bragg scattering that appears as a sharp straight line below the magnon peak in Fig. 2b or as a strong lowenergy peak in Fig. 2d. While fitting the experimental data to extract the magnon dispersion (solid lines in Fig. 2d), this spurious peak had to be masked out. As a result, the ferromagnon mode appears to be gapless within our experimental resolution, which agrees with the earlier microwave absorption measurements, where the spin gap value of only 3 GHz (12 μeV) has been reported^{20}. By fitting the experimental dispersion at low energies with a parabola, ħω=Dq^{2}, where q is the momentum transfer along (001) measured relative to the (222) structural Bragg reflection, we evaluated the spinwave stiffness D=52.6 meV Å^{2}, which is comparable to that in the prototypical metallic skyrmion compound MnSi (ref. 21).
The magnetic Goldstone mode is significantly broadened in both energy and momentum and has a large intrinsic width that is considerably exceeding the instrumental resolution of ∼0.14 meV. This can be naturally explained as a result of the incommensurability of the spinspiral structure and its deviation from the collinear ferrimagnetic order. In the helimagnetic state, the lowenergy magnetic excitations are expected to split into socalled helimagnons emanating from the first, second and higherorder magnetic Bragg reflections^{22,23,24}. The incommensurability parameter k_{h} is too small in our case to be resolved with a conventional tripleaxis spectrometer. The typical helimagnon energy scale in Cu_{2}OSeO_{3} can be estimated as μeV, that is an order of magnitude lower than in MnSi and also lies well below the energy resolution of the instrument. As a result, multiple unresolved helimagnon branches merge into a single broadened peak as seen in Fig. 2d.
According to the theoretical calculations^{13}, a higherenergy band of dispersive magnon excitations is expected between ∼25 and 40 meV. In Fig. 2c, we show several spectra measured in this energy range at a number of highsymmetry points that reveal at least three distinct peaks. Here we have grouped the spectra according to their location in the original crystallographic Brillouin zone (grey cube in Fig. 1b) to emphasize that the peak intensities are strongly affected by the dynamical structure factors, whereas their positions in energy in different Brillouin zones remain essentially the same for equivalent wave vectors. The theory anticipates that these highenergy modes represent an intricate tangle of multiple magnon branches, so that several of them may contribute to every experimentally observed peak. A direct comparison with the existing spindynamical calculations, therefore, appears difficult with the limited TAS data and requires a complete mapping of the momentum–energy space using timeofflight (TOF) neutron spectroscopy that we present below.
Timeofflight neutron spectroscopy
The benefit of TOF neutron scattering is that it provides access to the whole fourdimensional energy–momentum space (ħω, Q) in a single measurement, which is particularly useful for mapping out complex magnetic dispersions that persist over the whole Brillouin zone. The data can be then analysed to extract any arbitrary one or twodimensional cut from this data set as we describe in the Methods. Figure 3 presents several typical energy–momentum cuts taken along different highsymmetry lines parallel to the (001), (110) and (111) crystallographic axes. One clearly sees both the lowenergy ferromagnon band that is most intense around Γ′(222) and the intertwined higherenergy dispersive magnon modes between 25 and 40 meV whose intensity anticorrelates with that of the lowenergy modes: it vanishes near Γ′(222) yet is maximized near the X′(220) point at the unfoldedzone boundary, where the lowenergy modes are weak. The low and highenergy modes are separated by a broad energy gap in the range ∼13–25 meV. In addition, at much higher energies one can see two relatively weak flat modes centred around 49 and 61 meV (marked with arrows in Fig. 3a). Although the theory predicts a flat magnetic mode around 54 meV (ref. 13), the fact that their intensity monotonically increases towards higher Q speaks rather in favour of optical phonons. It is likely that the 54 meV magnetic mode is far too weak compared with the phonon peaks and therefore cannot be clearly seen in our data. As the data in Fig. 3 extend over several equivalent Brillouin zones in momentum space, one can see an increase of the nonmagnetic background and a simultaneous decrease of the magnetic signal towards higher Q, resulting in a rapid reduction of the signaltobackground ratio. Therefore, in the following we restrict our analysis mainly to the irreducible part of the reciprocal space corresponding to the shortest possible wave vectors between Γ(000) and Γ′(222).
It is interesting to note how the hierarchical structure of Brillouin zones introduced in Fig. 1 is directly reflected in the magnon intensities. Along the (HHH) direction in Fig. 3e, the strongest spinwave modes are seen around centres of the large unfolded zones, Γ(000) and Γ′(222), while a somewhat weaker mode appears at the L(111) point that coincides with the zone centre for the smaller fcc Brillouin zone (shown in blue in Fig. 1b). Other points with integer coordinates that are centres of the smallest simplecubic zones but of none of the larger ones, such as (110) or (001), contain only much weaker replica bands that are barely seen in the data (for example, Figs 2a and 3a,c). This leads to the appearance of rather unusual features in certain cuts through the spectrum, such as the one at the (001) point in the middle of Fig. 3c, which visually resembles the bottom part of the famous hourglasslike dispersion in some transitionmetal oxides^{25,26,27}. However, here its intense top part stems from the nearest unfoldedzone centre Γ(000) that lies outside of the image plane, while the weaker downwarddispersing branches originate from the L points at and (111), producing such a peculiar shape. The situation is even more complicated at higher energies, where the strongest wellresolved downwardpointing modes with a bottom around 26 meV are located at W points of the large unfolded zone, such as (102), (210) or (320), with weaker replicas shifted by the (111) or equivalent vector. Interestingly, without Brillouin zone unfolding such a particularity of the W points would not at all be obvious without explicit calculations of the dynamical structure factors, as they are all equivalent to the zone centre in the original crystallographic Brillouin zone notation.
The pattern of INS intensity in momentum space is visualized by the constantenergy slices presented in Fig. 4. All of them are oriented parallel to the (HHL) plane, which was horizontal in our experimental geometry. The lowenergy cut integrated around 8±1 meV (Fig. 4a) passes through the origin and contains both the (222) and (111) wave vectors, where rings of scattering from the stronger and weaker magnetic Goldstone modes, respectively, can be clearly seen. The next cut at 28±1 meV in Fig. 4b is shifted by the vector in such a way that it crosses the previously mentioned downwardpointing highenergy modes, which appear as small circles around W points. Finally, the last two panels (Fig. 4c,d) show integrated intensity in the (HHL) plane at energies corresponding to the middle (32.5±3.5 meV) and top (38±2 meV) of the upper magnon band, respectively. While individual magnon dispersions are intertwined at these energies and cannot be resolved separately, in both panels we observe deep minima of intensity at the Γ′(222), Γ″(400) and equivalent wave vectors. They correspond to the suppression of the dynamical structure factor at the centre of the unfolded Brillouin zone, where the lowenergy ferromagnon mode, on the contrary, is most intense.
To get a more complete picture of magnetic excitations in Cu_{2}OSeO_{3} and to compare them with the results of spindynamical calculations, we have symmetrized the TOF data (see Methods) and assembled energy–momentum profiles along a polygonal path involving all highsymmetry directions in Qspace into a single map presented in Fig. 5a. Due to the kinematic constraints, the data in the first Brillouin zone are always limited to lower energies as can be seen in Fig. 3, but have the best signaltonoise ratio. Therefore, for the best result we also underlayed data from higher Brillouin zones to show the higherenergy part of the spectrum at equivalent wave vectors in the unfolded notation.
Spindynamical calculations
Based on previous theoretical and experimental results^{13,14,15}, we used a tetrahedronfactorized multiboson method to calculate the magnon spectrum for the collinear ferrimagnetically ordered state. We consider the Heisenbergtype Hamiltonian:
where J_{ij} denote five different kinds of exchange couplings between sites i and j that are explained in Fig. 5c. There are two strong couplings, a ferromagnetic and an antiferromagnetic one, residing on the Cu_{4} tetrahedra that form the elementary units of our tetrahedrafactorized multiboson theory. Furthermore, there are weak ferromagnetic and antiferromagnetic firstneighbour interactions connecting the tetrahedra. The last coupling is an antiferromagnetic longerrange interaction (J_{O..O}) connecting Cu_{1} and Cu_{2} across the diagonals of hexagonal loops formed by alternating Cu_{1} and Cu_{2} sites. These five interactions are treated on a meanfield level, whereas the antisymmetric DM interactions are neglected for simplicity, as they would affect only the lowest frequency range of the spectrum in the vicinity of the zone centre. This same model has been discussed in detail in ref. 13, for details see also Supplementary Notes 1 and 2 with the Supplementary Table 1. Having a complete picture of magnetic excitations in the entire Brillouin zone up to high energies, we can refine the previously established interaction parameters determined from abinitio calculations^{14} and ESR experiments^{15}.
The values for weak interaction parameters were found to be K, K and K, as defined earlier by fitting the magnetization data^{14}. These parameters, in fact, provide lowlying modes in agreement with the TOF data as shown in Fig. 5a. Strong coupling constants within the tetrahedra, and , are mainly responsible for the positions of highenergy modes and govern the intratetrahedron excitations. We keep K as it was determined from fitting the ESR spectrum^{15}. Modifying to −170 K, we can reproduce the highenergy modes in excellent agreement with experiment, as seen in Fig. 5a, where the result of the spindynamical calculations is shown with dotted lines (see also Supplementary Note 1 with Supplementary Figs 1 and 2).
To fully test our model, we also calculated the scattering cross section. At zero temperature this corresponds to
where α, β={x, y, z}, , and S^{αβ}(k, ω) is the dynamical spin structure factor. Here we used the original crystallographic unit cell and the corresponding cubic Brillouin zone, taking the exact positions of each copper atom within the unit cell into account. The theoretically established scattering intensity plot (artificially broadened to model the experimental resolution) is shown in Fig. 5b, demonstrating strikingly good agreement with the INS data.
Discussion
We have presented the complete overview of spin excitations in Cu_{2}OSeO_{3} throughout the entire Brillouin zone and over a broad energy range. The data reveal lowenergy ferromagnetic Goldstone modes and a higherenergy band of multiple intertwined dispersive spinwave excitations that are separated by an extensive energy gap. All the observed features can be excellently described by the previously developed theoretical model of interacting Cu_{4} tetrahedra, given that one of the strong interaction parameters, is set to a new value of −170 K. The complete list of the dominant parameters for the magnetic Hamiltonian determined here is now able to describe all the available experimental results (magnetization, ESR and INS data) simultaneously. Our model can serve as a starting point for more elaborate lowenergy theories that would be able to explain the complex magnetic phase diagram of Cu_{2}OSeO_{3}, including the helimagnetic order and skyrmionlattice phases, which still represents a challenge of high current interest in solidstate physics.
Methods
Sample preparation
The compound Cu_{2}OSeO_{3} has first been synthesized by a reaction of CuO (Alfa Aesar 99.995%) and SeO_{2} (Alfa Aesar 99.999%) at 300 °C (2 days) and 600 °C (7 days) in evacuated fused silica tubes. Starting from this microcrystalline powder, single crystals of Cu_{2}OSeO_{3} were then grown by chemical transport reaction using NH_{4}Cl as a transport additive, which decomposes in the vapour phase into ammonia and the transport agent HCl. The reaction was performed in a temperature gradient from 575 °C (source) to 460 °C (sink), and a transport additive concentration of 1 mg cm^{−3} NH_{4}Cl (Alfa Aesar 99.999%)^{18}. The resulting single crystals with typical sizes of 30–60 mm^{3} were selectively characterized by magnetization, dilatometry, and Xray diffraction measurements, showing good crystallinity and reproducible behaviour of physical properties. The crystals were then coaligned into a single mosaic sample for neutronscattering measurements with a total mass of ∼2.5 g using a digital Xray Laue camera.
Tripleaxis INS measurements
The measurements presented in Fig. 2 have been performed at the PUMA thermalneutron spectrometer with a fixed final neutron wave vector k_{f}=2.662 Å^{−1} and the PANDA coldneutron spectrometer with k_{f}=1.4 Å^{−1}, both at the FRMII research reactor in Garching, Germany. A pyrolytic graphite or cold beryllium filter, respectively, was installed after the sample to suppress higher order scattering contamination from the monochromator. The sample was mounted in the (HHL) scattering plane and cooled down with a closedcycle refrigerator to the base temperature of ∼5 K in both experiments.
Timeofflight measurements
TOF data in Figs 3, 4, 5 were collected using the wide angular range chopper spectrometer ARCS^{28} at the Spallation Neutron Source, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, with the incident neutron energy set to E_{i}=70 meV. Here the base temperature of the sample was at 4.5 K. The reciprocal space was mapped by performing a full 360° rotation of the sample about the vertical axis in steps of 1° counting ∼20 min per angle. The experimental energy resolution measured as the full width at half maximum of the elastic line was ∼2.5 meV.
Data analysis
The TOF data were normalized to a vanadium reference measurement for detector efficiency correction, combined and transformed into energy–momentum space using the opensource MATLABbased HORACE analysis software. Because of the high symmetry of the cubic lattice, the TOF data set could be symmetrized in order to improve statistics in the data and thereby improve the signaltonoise ratio considerably. After the establishment of the fact, that the intensity of the INS signal follows the symmetry of the large unfolded Brillouin zone introduced in Fig. 1b, we have assumed this symmetry for the symmetrization. This means that every energy–momentum cut in Fig. 3 and every segment of Fig. 5a has been averaged with all possible equivalent cuts within the same Brillouin zone (cuts from different Brillouin zones with different Q were not averaged). For example, the LW or LK segments forming the radius and apothem of the hexagonal face of the unfolded Brillouin zone boundary, respectively, (Fig. 1b) have 48 equivalent instances along six nonparallel directions in the Brillouin zone that can be averaged. As this kind of data analysis is very time consuming and requires significant computational efforts, it still awaits to become the standard practice in neutronscattering research.
Software availability
The opensource MATLABbased HORACE software package is available from http://horace.isis.rl.ac.uk.
Additional information
How to cite this article: Portnichenko, P. Y. et al. Magnon spectrum of the helimagnetic insulator Cu_{2}OSeO_{3}. Nat. Commun. 7:10725 doi: 10.1038/ncomms10725 (2016).
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Acknowledgements
We thank S. Zherlitsyn and Y. Gritsenko for sound velocity measurements that assisted our data interpretation and M. Rotter for helpful discussions at the start of this project. The work at the TU Dresden was financially supported by the German Research Foundation within the collaborative research centre SFB 1143, research training group GRK 1621, and the individual research grant no. IN 209/41. J.R. acknowledges partial funding from the Hungarian OTKA Grant K106047. Research at ORNL’s Spallation Neutron Source was sponsored by the Scientific User Facilities Division, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, the US Department of Energy.
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A.H. and M.S. have grown single crystals for this study; P.Y.P., A.S.C., M.A.S., J.A.L. and D.S.I. conducted the INS experiments; J.T.P., A.S. and D.L.A. provided instrument support at different neutron spectrometers; P.Y.P. and Y.A.O. analysed the neutron data and prepared the figures; J.R. and J.v.d.B. provided theory support and performed the spindynamical calculations; P.Y.P., J.R., H.R., J.v.d.B. and D.S.I. interpreted the results; D.S.I. supervised the project and wrote the manuscript; all authors discussed the results and commented on the paper.
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Supplementary Figures 12, Supplementary Table 1, Supplementary Notes 12 and Supplementary Reference (PDF 1636 kb)
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Portnichenko, P., Romhányi, J., Onykiienko, Y. et al. Magnon spectrum of the helimagnetic insulator Cu_{2}OSeO_{3}. Nat Commun 7, 10725 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms10725
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