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Phys Rev Lett. 2006 May 26;96(20):207202. Epub 2006 May 22.

Theory of the helical spin crystal: a candidate for the partially ordered state of MnSi.

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Department of Physics, University of California, 366 LeConte #7300, Berkeley, California 94720-7300, USA.


MnSi is an itinerant magnet which at low temperatures develops a helical spin-density wave. Under pressure it undergoes a transition into an unusual partially ordered state whose nature is debated. Here we propose that the helical spin crystal (the magnetic analog of a solid) is a useful starting point to understand partial order in MnSi. We consider different helical spin crystals and determine conditions under which they may be energetically favored. The most promising candidate has bcc structure and is reminiscent of the blue phase of liquid crystals in that it has line nodes of magnetization protected by symmetry. We introduce a Landau theory to study the properties of these states, in particular, the effect of crystal anisotropy, magnetic field, and disorder. These results compare favorably with existing data on MnSi from neutron scattering and magnetic field studies. Future experiments to test this scenario are also proposed.

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