Fractional antiferromagnetic skyrmion lattice induced by anisotropic couplings

Magnetic skyrmions are topological solitons with a nanoscale winding spin texture that hold promise for spintronics applications. Skyrmions have so far been observed in a variety of magnets that exhibit nearly parallel alignment for neighbouring spins, but theoretically skyrmions with anti-parallel neighbouring spins are also possible. Such antiferromagnetic skyrmions may allow more flexible control than conventional ferromagnetic skyrmions. Here, by combining neutron scattering measurements and Monte Carlo simulations, we show that a fractional antiferromagnetic skyrmion lattice is stabilized in MnSc2S4 through anisotropic couplings. The observed lattice is composed of three antiferromagnetically coupled sublattices, and each sublattice is a triangular skyrmion lattice that is fractionalized into two parts with an incipient meron (half-skyrmion) character. Our work demonstrates that the theoretically proposed antiferromagnetic skyrmions can be stabilized in real materials and represents an important step towards their implementation in spintronic devices.