Thermal activation, long-range ordering, and topological frustration of artificial spin ice

Thumbnail Image

Publication or External Link





Frustrated systems, typically characterized by competing interactions that cannot all be simultaneously satisfied, are ubiquitous in nature and display many rich phenomena and novel physics. Artificial spin ices (ASIs), arrays of lithographically patterned Ising-like single-domain magnetic nanostructures, are highly tunable systems that have proven to be a novel method for studying the effects of frustration and associated properties. The strength and nature of the frustrated interactions between individual magnets are readily tuned by design and the exact microstate of the system can be determined by a variety of characterization techniques. Recently, thermal activation of ASI systems has been demonstrated, introducing the spontaneous reversal of individual magnets and allowing for new explorations of novel phase transitions and phenomena using these systems. In this work, we introduce a new, robust material with favorable magnetic properties for studying thermally active ASI and use it to investigate a variety of ASI geometries. We reproduce previously reported perfect ground-state ordering in the square geometry and present studies of the kagome lattice showing the highest yet degree of ordering observed in this fully frustrated system. We consider theoretical predictions of long-range order in ASI and use both our experimental studies and kinetic Monte Carlo simulations to evaluate these predictions. Next, we introduce controlled topological defects into our square ASI samples and observe a new, extended frustration effect of the system. When we introduce a dislocation into the lattice, we still see large domains of ground-state order, but, in every sample, a domain wall containing higher energy spin arrangements originates from the dislocation, resolving a discontinuity in the ground-state order parameter. Locally, the magnets are unfrustrated, but frustration of the lattice persists due to its topology. We demonstrate the first direct imaging of spin configurations resulting from topological frustration in any system and make predictions on how dislocations could affect properties in numerous materials systems.