Field-induced phase coexistence in an artificial spin ice

Nature Physics 15, 191-195 (2019).

Artificial spin-ice systems are magnetic metamaterials consisting of nanomagnet arrays that can be designed to study exotic magnetic states not found in natural materials. Typically, these arrays are modelled as interacting binary macrospins that can only be in an up or down state and are described by the Ising model. These materials have demonstrated ordering transitions, but only via a spontaneous symmetry-breaking mechanism. We have designed and studied a quadrupole artificial spin-ice system consisting of interacting plaquettes of coupled single-domain nanomagnets that can be interpreted as a composite, ternary variable. After annealing this system in an external magnetic field, we observe both a ferroquadrupolar and an antiferroquadrupolar phase, with an apparent first-order phase boundary and a coexistence regime. The phase diagram of this material is reminiscent of a model used to describe phase coexistence in the superfluid transition of 4He with 3He impurities. These results illustrate how composite magnetic objects realize exotic statistical physics models beyond the Ising model.

Joseph Sklenar, Yuyang Lao, Alan Albrecht, Justin D. Watts, Cristiano Nisoli, Gia-Wei Chern & Peter Schiffer, Nature Physics 15, 191-195 (2019).

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