Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have used neutron scattering to show that a spiral spin liquid is realized in the van der Waals honeycomb magnet iron trichloride (FeCl3). The ORNL team grew the host material and demonstrated this long-predicted behavior.
The team's work demonstrates that spiral spin liquids can be achieved in two-dimensional systems and provides a promising platform to study the fracton physics in spiral spin liquids.
“Our study shows that the concept of a spiral spin liquid is viable for the broad class of honeycomb lattice materials,” said ORNL researcher Andrew Christianson. “It gives the community a new route to explore spin textures and novel excitations, such as fractons, that then may be used in future applications, such as quantum computing.” – Fractons are collective quantized vibrations.
The magnetic structure of a spiral spin liquid “looks like a topographic map of a group of mountains with a bunch of rings going outward,” according to ORNL scientist Matthew Stone. “If you were to walk along a ring, all spins would point in the same direction. But if you walk outward and cross different rings, you’re going to see those spins begin to rotate about their axes. That’s the spiral.”