Particle-size dependent structural transformation of skyrmion lattice

Magnetic skyrmion is a topologically protected particle-like object in magnetic materials, appearing as a nanometric swirling spin texture. The size and shape of skyrmion particles can be flexibly controlled by external stimuli, which suggests unique features of their crystallization and lattice transformation process. Here, we investigated the detailed mechanism of structural transition of skyrmion lattice (SkL) in a prototype chiral cubic magnet Cu2OSeO3, by combining resonant soft X-ray scattering (RSXS) experiment and micromagnetic simulation. This compound is found to undergo a triangular-to-square lattice transformation of metastable skyrmions by sweeping magnetic field (B). Our simulation suggests that the symmetry change of metastable SkL is mainly triggered by the B-induced modification of skyrmion core diameter and associated energy cost at the skyrmion-skyrmion interface region. Such internal deformation of skyrmion particle has further been confirmed by probing the higher harmonics in the RSXS pattern. These results demonstrate that the size/shape degree of freedom of skyrmion particle is an important factor to determine their stable lattice form, revealing the exotic manner of phase transition process for topological soliton ensembles in the non-equilibrium condition.