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Robust metastable skyrmions and their triangular–square lattice structural transition in a high-temperature chiral magnet


Skyrmions, topologically protected nanometric spin vortices, are being investigated extensively in various magnets1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11. Among them, many structurally chiral cubic magnets host the triangular-lattice skyrmion crystal (SkX) as the thermodynamic equilibrium state. However, this state exists only in a narrow temperature and magnetic-field region just below the magnetic transition temperature Tc, while a helical or conical magnetic state prevails at lower temperatures. Here we describe that for a room-temperature skyrmion material12, β-Mn-type Co8Zn8Mn4, a field-cooling via the equilibrium SkX state can suppress the transition to the helical or conical state, instead realizing robust metastable SkX states that survive over a very wide temperature and magnetic-field region. Furthermore, the lattice form of the metastable SkX is found to undergo reversible transitions between a conventional triangular lattice and a novel square lattice upon varying the temperature and magnetic field. These findings exemplify the topological robustness of the once-created skyrmions, and establish metastable skyrmion phases as a fertile ground for technological applications.

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Figure 1: Crystal structure and state diagrams of Co8Zn8Mn4.
Figure 2: Chiral magnetic structures in real space and q space.
Figure 3: Temperature dependence of the metastable SkX.
Figure 4: Field dependence of the metastable SkX at 40 K after FC.


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We are grateful to N. Nagaosa, W. Koshibae, S. Zhang, X. Z. Yu, D. Morikawa, T. Nakajima and N. Kanazawa for fruitful discussions and thank D. Lançon for experimental support at ILL. This work was supported by JSPS Grant-in-Aids for Scientific Research (S) No. 24224009, the Swiss National Science Foundation projects 153451 and 166298, and the European Research Council project CONQUEST.

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Y.Taguchi, H.M.R. and Y.Tokura jointly conceived the project. The sample preparation was performed by K.K., A.K. and Y.Tokunaga. Neutron diffraction measurements of the nuclear peaks were carried out by J.S.W. A.c. magnetic susceptibility measurements were carried out by K.K., H.O. and F.K. Small-angle neutron scattering measurements were carried out by J.S.W., K.K., N.R. and J.L.G. The results were discussed and interpreted by all the authors.

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Correspondence to K. Karube.

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Karube, K., White, J., Reynolds, N. et al. Robust metastable skyrmions and their triangular–square lattice structural transition in a high-temperature chiral magnet. Nature Mater 15, 1237–1242 (2016).

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