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Nature. 2013 Aug 29;500(7464):553-7. doi: 10.1038/nature12399.

Crystallites of magnetic charges in artificial spin ice.

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1
Department of Physics and Materials Research Institute, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, USA.

Abstract

Artificial spin ice is a class of lithographically created arrays of interacting ferromagnetic nanometre-scale islands. It was introduced to investigate many-body phenomena related to frustration and disorder in a material that could be tailored to precise specifications and imaged directly. Because of the large magnetic energy scales of these nanoscale islands, it has so far been impossible to thermally anneal artificial spin ice into desired thermodynamic ensembles; nearly all studies of artificial spin ice have either treated it as a granular material activated by alternating fields or focused on the as-grown state of the arrays. This limitation has prevented experimental investigation of novel phases that can emerge from the nominal ground states of frustrated lattices. For example, artificial kagome spin ice, in which the islands are arranged on the edges of a hexagonal net, is predicted to support states with monopolar charge order at entropies below that of the previously observed pseudo-ice manifold. Here we demonstrate a method for thermalizing artificial spin ices with square and kagome lattices by heating above the Curie temperature of the constituent material. In this manner, artificial square spin ice achieves unprecedented thermal ordering of the moments. In artificial kagome spin ice, we observe incipient crystallization of the magnetic charges embedded in pseudo-ice, with crystallites of magnetic charges whose size can be controlled by tuning the lattice constant. We find excellent agreement between experimental data and Monte Carlo simulations of emergent charge-charge interactions.

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PMID:
23985872
DOI:
10.1038/nature12399
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