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Phys Rev Lett. 2011 Jul 8;107(2):026404. Epub 2011 Jul 6.

Symmetry-breaking lattice distortion in Sr₃Ru₂O₇.

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I. Physikalisches Institut, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, D-37077 Göttingen, Germany.


The electronic nematic phase of Sr₃Ru₂O₇ is investigated by high-resolution in-plane thermal expansion measurements in magnetic fields close to 8 T applied at various angles Θ off the c axis. At Θ < 10° we observe a very small (10⁻⁷) lattice distortion which breaks the fourfold in-plane symmetry, resulting in nematic domains with interchanged a and b axis. At Θ ≳ 10° the domains are almost fully aligned and thermal expansion indicates an area-preserving lattice distortion of order 2 × 10⁻⁶ which is likely related to orbital ordering. Since the system is located in the immediate vicinity of a metamagnetic quantum critical end point, the results represent the first observation of a structural relaxation driven by quantum criticality.

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