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Phys Rev Lett. 2007 Oct 12;99(15):157204. Epub 2007 Oct 11.

Orbital degeneracy removed by charge order in triangular antiferromagnet AgNiO2.

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H.H. Wills Physics Laboratory, University of Bristol, Tyndall Avenue, Bristol BS8 1TL, United Kingdom.


We report a high-resolution neutron diffraction study on the orbitally degenerate spin-1/2 hexagonal metallic antiferromagnet AgNiO2. A structural transition to a tripled unit cell with expanded and contracted NiO6 octahedra indicates sqrt[3]xsqrt[3] charge order on the Ni triangular lattice. This suggests charge order as a possible mechanism of lifting the orbital degeneracy in the presence of charge fluctuations, as an alternative to the more usual Jahn-Teller distortions. A novel magnetic ground state is observed at low temperatures with the electron-rich S=1 Ni sites arranged in alternating ferromagnetic rows on a triangular lattice, surrounded by a honeycomb network of nonmagnetic and metallic Ni ions. We also report first-principles band-structure calculations that explain microscopically the origin of these phenomena.

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