Probing a rare material spin state

Sep 14, 2007

A team of international physicists that includes researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology has found experimental evidence of a highly sought-after type of arrangement of atomic magnetic moments, or spins, in a series of materials. Their work, one of the very few studies of this particular spin state, which has been postulated as a possible underlying mechanism for high-temperature superconductivity, may eventually serve as a test of current and future theoretical models of exotic spin states.

At the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR) and the Hahn-Meitner Institute in Berlin, Germany, the scientists used intense beams of neutrons to probe a series of antiferromagnets, materials in which each spin—an intrinsic property of an atom that produces a tiny magnetic field called a magnetic “moment”—cancels another, giving the material a net magnetic field of zero.

The results, described in the Aug. 26 online edition of Nature Materials, revealed evidence of a rare and pporly understood “quantum paramagnetic” spin state, in which neighboring spins pair up to form “entangled spin singlets” that have an ordered pattern and that allow the material to weakly respond to an outside magnetic field—i.e., become paramagnetic.

The antiferromagnets used in this work are composed mainly of zinc and copper, and are distinguished by their proportions of each, with the number of copper ions determined by the number of zinc ions. At the atomic level, the material is formed of many repeating layers. The atoms of each layer are arranged into a structure known as a “kagome lattice,” a pattern of triangles laid point-to-point whose basic unit resembles a six-point star.

Physicists have been studying antiferromagnets with kagome structures over the last 20 years because they suspected these materials harbored interesting spin structures. But good model systems, like the zinc/copper compounds used by this group, had not been identified.

At the NCNR, the researchers determined how varying concentrations of zinc and copper and varying temperatures affected fluctuations in the way the spins are arranged in these materials. Using a neutron spectrometer at the Hahn-Meitner Institute, they also investigated the effect of external magnetic fields of varying strengths. The group uncovered several magnetic phases in addition to the quantum paramagnetic state and were able to construct a complete phase diagram as a function of the zinc concentration and temperature. They are planning further experimental and theoretical studies to learn more about the kagome system.

Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology

Explore further: Pseudoparticles travel through photoactive material

Related Stories

Heat makes electrons spin in magnetic superconductors

17 hours ago

Physicists have shown how heat can be exploited for controlling magnetic properties of matter. The finding helps in the development of more efficient mass memories. The result was published yesterday in Physical Review Le ...

Electrons move like light in three-dimensional solid

Apr 22, 2015

Electrons were observed to travel in a solid at an unusually high velocity, which remained the same independent of the electron energy. This anomalous light-like behavior is found in special two-dimensional ...

Electron spin brings order to high entropy alloys

Apr 22, 2015

Researchers from North Carolina State University have discovered that electron spin brings a previously unknown degree of order to the high entropy alloy nickel iron chromium cobalt (NiFeCrCo) - and may play ...

Putting a new spin on computing memory

Apr 22, 2015

Ever since computers have been small enough to be fixtures on desks and laps, their central processing has functioned something like an atomic Etch A Sketch, with electromagnetic fields pushing data bits ...

Ultrafast tracking of electron spins

Apr 21, 2015

Our present digital information processing and storage is based on two properties of the electron. The first is its charge, which is used in electronic circuits to process information. The second is its spin, ...

Boron-based atomic clusters mimic rare-earth metals

Apr 17, 2015

Rare Earth elements, found in the f-block of the periodic table, have particular magnetic and optical properties that make them valuable commodities. This has been particularly true over the last thirty years ...

Recommended for you

Pseudoparticles travel through photoactive material

Apr 23, 2015

Researchers of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have unveiled an important step in the conversion of light into storable energy: Together with scientists of the Fritz Haber Institute in Berlin and ...

From metal to insulator and back again

Apr 22, 2015

New work from Carnegie's Russell Hemley and Ivan Naumov hones in on the physics underlying the recently discovered fact that some metals stop being metallic under pressure. Their work is published in Physical Re ...

Electron spin brings order to high entropy alloys

Apr 22, 2015

Researchers from North Carolina State University have discovered that electron spin brings a previously unknown degree of order to the high entropy alloy nickel iron chromium cobalt (NiFeCrCo) - and may play ...

Expanding the reach of metallic glass

Apr 22, 2015

Metallic glass, a class of materials that offers both pliability and strength, is poised for a friendly takeover of the chemical landscape.

Electrons move like light in three-dimensional solid

Apr 22, 2015

Electrons were observed to travel in a solid at an unusually high velocity, which remained the same independent of the electron energy. This anomalous light-like behavior is found in special two-dimensional ...

Quantum model helps solve mysteries of water

Apr 20, 2015

Water is one of the most common and extensively studied substances on earth. It is vital for all known forms of life but its unique behaviour has yet to be explained in terms of the properties of individual ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.