Transition to and from the skyrmion lattice phase in a magnetoelectric compound



Y. Okamura, F. Kagawa, S. Seki & Y. Tokura 



Dissipation-less electric control of magnetic state variable is an important target of contemporary spintronics. The non-volatile control of magnetic skyrmions, nanometre-sized spin-swirling objects, with electric fields may exemplify this goal. The skyrmion-hosting magnetoelectric chiral magnet Cu2OSeO3 provides a unique platform for the implementation of such control; however, the hysteresis that accompanies the first-order transition associated with the skyrmion phase is negligibly narrow in practice. Here we demonstrate another method that functions irrespective of the transition boundary. Combination of magnetic-susceptibility measurements and microwave spectroscopy reveals that although the metastable skyrmion lattice is normally hidden behind a more thermodynamically stable conical phase, it emerges under electric fields and persists down to the lowest temperature. Once created, this metastable skyrmion lattice remains without electric fields, establishing a bistability distinct from the transition hysteresis. This bistability thus enables non-volatile electric-field control of the skyrmion lattice even in temperature/magnetic-field regions far from the transition boundary.



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