Publications associated with Quantum Magnetism and Quantum Phase Transitions

Monoclinic crystal structure of α−RuCl3 and the zigzag antiferromagnetic ground state

Physical Review B American Physical Society 92 (2015) 235119-

R Johnson, SC Williams, AA Haghighirad, J Singleton, V Zapf, P Manuel, II Mazin, Y Li, HO Jeschke, R Valenti, R Coldea

The layered honeycomb magnet alpha-RuCl3 has been proposed as a candidate to realize a Kitaev spin model with strongly frustrated, bond-dependent, anisotropic interactions between spin-orbit entangled jeff=1/2 Ru4+ magnetic moments. Here we report a detailed study of the three-dimensional crystal structure using x-ray diffraction on untwinned crystals combined with structural relaxation calculations. We consider several models for the stacking of honeycomb layers and find evidence for a crystal structure with a monoclinic unit cell corresponding to a stacking of layers with a unidirectional in-plane offset, with occasional in-plane sliding stacking faults, in contrast with the currently-assumed trigonal 3-layer stacking periodicity. We report electronic band structure calculations for the monoclinic structure, which find support for the applicability of the jeff=1/2 picture once spin orbit coupling and electron correlations are included. We propose that differences in the magnitude of anisotropic exchange along symmetry inequivalent bonds in the monoclinic cell could provide a natural mechanism to explain the spin gap observed in powder inelastic neutron scattering, in contrast to spin models based on the three-fold symmetric trigonal structure, which predict a gapless spectrum within linear spin wave theory. Our susceptibility measurements on both powders and stacked crystals, as well as neutron powder diffraction show a single magnetic transition at TN ~ 13K. The analysis of the neutron data provides evidence for zigzag magnetic order in the honeycomb layers with an antiferromagnetic stacking between layers. Magnetization measurements on stacked single crystals in pulsed field up to 60T show a single transition around 8T for in-plane fields followed by a gradual, asymptotic approach to magnetization saturation, as characteristic of strongly anisotropic exchange interactions.

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