NUM division - Scientific Highlights

Please have a look at our scientific highlights from the current year.

20 March 2017

Tuning the multiferroic mechanisms of TbMnO3 by epitaxial strain

A current challenge in the field of magnetoelectric multiferroics is to identify systems that allow a controlled tuning of states displaying distinct magnetoelectric responses. Here we show that the multiferroic ground state of the archetypal multiferroic TbMnO3 is dramatically modified by epitaxial strain. Neutron diffraction reveals that in highly strained films the magnetic order changes from the bulk-like incommensurate bc-cycloidal structure to commensurate magnetic order. Concomitant with the modification of the magnetic ground state, optical second-harmonic generation (SHG) and electric measurements show an enormous increase of the ferroelectric polarization, and a change in its direction from along the c- to the a-axis. Our results suggest that the drastic change of multiferroic properties results from a switch of the spin-current magnetoelectric coupling in bulk TbMnO3 to symmetric magnetostriction in epitaxially-strained TbMnO3. These findings experimentally demonstrate that epitaxial strain can be used to control single-phase spin-driven multiferroic states.
Facility: SINQ

Reference: K. Shimamoto et al, Scientific Reports 7, 44753 (2017)

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17 March 2017

Sub-pixel correlation length neutron imaging: Spatially resolved scattering information of microstructures on a macroscopic scale

Neutron imaging and scattering give data of significantly different nature and traditional methods leave a gap of accessible structure sizes at around 10 micrometers. Only in recent years overlap in the probed size ranges could be achieved by independent application of high resolution scattering and imaging methods, however without providing full structural information when microstructures vary on a macroscopic scale. In this study we show how quantitative neutron dark-field imaging with a novel experimental approach provides both sub-pixel resolution with respect to microscopic correlation lengths and imaging of macroscopic variations of the microstructure. Thus it provides combined information on multiple length scales. A dispersion of micrometer sized polystyrene colloids was chosen as a model system to study gravity induced crystallisation of microspheres on a macro scale, including the identification of ordered as well as unordered phases. Our results pave the way to study heterogeneous systems locally in a previously impossible manner.
Facility: SINQ

Reference: R.P. Harti et al, Scientific Reports 7, 44588 (2017)

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16 March 2017

High-resolution non-destructive three-dimensional imaging of integrated circuits

Modern nanoelectronics has advanced to a point at which it is impossible to image entire devices and their interconnections non- destructively because of their small feature sizes and the complex three-dimensional structures resulting from their integration on a chip. This metrology gap implies a lack of direct feedback between design and manufacturing processes, and hampers quality control during production, shipment and use. Here we demonstrate that X-ray ptychography - a high-resolution coherent diffractive imaging technique - can create three-dimensional images of integrated circuits of known and unknown designs with a lateral resolution in all directions down to 14.6 nanometres. We obtained detailed device geometries and corresponding elemental maps, and show how the devices are integrated with each other to form the chip. Our experiments represent a major advance in chip inspection and reverse engineering over the traditional destructive electron microscopy and ion milling techniques. Foreseeable developments in X-ray sources, optics and detectors, as well as adoption of an instrument geometry optimized for planar rather than cylindrical samples, could lead to a thousand-fold increase in efficiency, with concomitant reductions in scan times and voxel sizes.
Facility: SLS

Reference: M. Holler et al, Nature 543, 402 (2017)

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15 March 2017

Ground state selection under pressure in the quantum pyrochlore magnet Yb2Ti2O7

A quantum spin liquid is a state of matter characterized by quantum entanglement and the absence of any broken symmetry. In condensed matter, the frustrated rare-earth pyrochlore magnets Ho2Ti2O7 and Dy2Ti2O7, so-called spin ices, exhibit a classical spin liquid state with fractionalized thermal excitations (magnetic monopoles). Evidence for a quantum spin ice, in which the magnetic monopoles become long range entangled and an emergent quantum electrodynamics arises, seems within reach. The magnetic properties of the quantum spin ice candidate Yb2Ti2O7 have eluded a global understanding and even the presence or absence of static magnetic order at low temperatures is controversial. Here we show that sensitivity to pressure is the missing key to the low temperature behaviour of Yb2Ti2O7. By combining neutron diffraction and muon spin relaxation on a stoichiometric sample under pressure, we evidence a magnetic transition from a disordered, non-magnetic, ground state to a splayed ferromagnetic ground state.
Facility: SμS

Reference: E. Kermarrec et al, Nature Communications 8, 14810 (2017)

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10 March 2017

Effects of Quantum Spin-1/2 Impurities on the Magnetic Properties of Zigzag Spin Chains

We investigate the effect of Co2+ (spin-1/2) impurities on the magnetic ground state and low-lying spin excitations of the quasione-dimensional spin-1/2 antiferromagnet SrCuO2 by means of neutron scattering, muon spin spectroscopy, and bulk (ac and dc) magnetic susceptibilities. We found that dilute Co doping induces an Ising-like anisotropy and enhances the magnetic ordering temperature rather significantly, but preserves the gapless nature of the spin excitations. These results are in apparent contradiction with the recent studies of Ni (spin-1) doped SrCuO2. Low-temperature magnetic behavior of the Co-doped zigzag chains in SrCuO2 reveals the presence of a weak geometrical spin frustration.
Facility: SINQ

Reference: K. Karmakar et al, Physical Review Letters 118, 107201 (2017)

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10 March 2017

Distinct Evolutions of Weyl Fermion Quasiparticles and Fermi Arcs with Bulk Band Topology in Weyl Semimetals

The Weyl semimetal phase is a recently discovered topological quantum state of matter characterized by the presence of topologically protected degeneracies near the Fermi level. These degeneracies are the source of exotic phenomena, including the realization of chiral Weyl fermions as quasiparticles in the bulk and the formation of Fermi arc states on the surfaces. Here, we demonstrate that these two key signatures show distinct evolutions with the bulk band topology by performing angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy, supported by first-principles calculations, on transition-metal monophosphides. While Weyl fermion quasiparticles exist only when the chemical potential is located between two saddle points of the Weyl cone features, the Fermi arc states extend in a larger energy scale and are robust across the bulk Lifshitz transitions associated with the recombination of two nontrivial Fermi surfaces enclosing one Weyl point into a single trivial Fermi surface enclosing two Weyl points of opposite chirality. Therefore, in some systems (e.g., NbP), topological Fermi arc states are preserved even if Weyl fermion quasiparticles are absent in the bulk. Our findings not only provide insight into the relationship between the exotic physical phenomena and the intrinsic bulk band topology in Weyl semimetals, but also resolve the apparent puzzle of the different magnetotransport properties observed in TaAs, TaP, and NbP, where the Fermi arc states are similar.
Facility: SLS

Reference: N. Xu et al, Physical Review Letters 118, 106406 (2017)

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9 March 2017

Room-temperature helimagnetism in FeGe thin films

Chiral magnets are promising materials for the realisation of high-density and low-power spintronic memory devices. For these future applications, a key requirement is the synthesis of appropriate materials in the form of thin films ordering well above room temperature. Driven by the Dzyaloshinskii-Moriya interaction, the cubic compound FeGe exhibits helimagnetism with a relatively high transition temperature of 278 K in bulk crystals. We demonstrate that this temperature can be enhanced significantly in thin films. Using x-ray scattering and ferromagnetic resonance techniques, we provide unambiguous experimental evidence for long-wavelength helimagnetic order at room temperature and magnetic properties similar to the bulk material. We obtain αintr = 0.0036±0.0003 at 310K for the intrinsic damping parameter. We probe the dynamics of the system by means of muon-spin rotation, indicating that the ground state is reached via a freezing out of slow dynamics. Our work paves the way towards the fabrication of thin films of chiral magnets that host certain spin whirls, so-called skyrmions, at room temperature and potentially offer integrability into modern electronics.
Facility: SμS

Reference: S.L. Zhang et al, Scientific Reports 7, 123 (2017)

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1 March 2017

Silicon pixel barrel detector successfully installed in the CMS experiment

Middle of February the upgraded CMS silicon pixel barrel detector has been moved from PSI to CERN and was successfully installed in the CMS experiment. The new pixel detector is part of the so-called phase1-upgrade of the CMS detector, located at a distance of only a few centimetres away from the interaction point and able to cope with the harsh particle environment expected due to the increased luminosity of the LHC collider.
The installation of the upgraded pixel detector so far crowns the work of approximately 15 year of a collaborative R&D effort led by the High Energy Group of the Laboratory for Particle Physics. After the installation of the previous pixel detector in 2008 the work concentrated on the design of a series of radiation tolerant pixel readout chips with low pixel thresholds, low noise behaviour and high pixel hit rate capabilities of up to 600 MHz/cm2 and the development and construction of a very light, low material budget detector mechanics.
The performance of the chips and related readout electronics was regularly tested at the πE1 beamline which offers with its high momentum and high rate pion beam similar conditions as the hadronic particle environment close to the interaction point of the CMS experiment. The silicon pixel technology developed at PSI for the first CMS silicon vertex detector was successfully transferred to industry and led in 2007 to the foundation of the spin-off company DECTRIS which fabricates and sells x-ray counting pixel detectors all over the world.
Facility: Particle Physics

28 February 2017

Spiral spin-liquid and the emergence of a vortex-like state in MnSc2S4

Spirals and helices are common motifs of long-range order in magnetic solids, and they may also be organized into more complex emergent structures such as magnetic skyrmions and vortices. A new type of spiral state, the spiral spin-liquid, in which spins fluctuate collectively as spirals, has recently been predicted to exist. Here, using neutron scattering techniques, we experimentally prove the existence of a spiral spin-liquid in MnSc2S4 by directly observing the 'spiral surface'-a continuous surface of spiral propagation vectors in reciprocal space. We elucidate the multi-step ordering behaviour of the spiral spin- liquid, and discover a vortex-like triple-q phase on application of a magnetic field. Our results prove the e ectiveness of the J1-J2 Hamiltonian on the diamond lattice as a model for the spiral spin-liquid state in MnSc2S4, and also demonstrate a new way to realize a magnetic vortex lattice through frustrated interactions.
Facility: SINQ

Reference: S. Gao et al, Nature Physics 13, 157 (2017)

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21 February 2017

Intermicellar Interactions and the Viscoelasticity of Surfactant Solutions: Complementary Use of SANS and SAXS

In ionic surfactant micelles, basic interactions among distinct parts of surfactant monomers, their counterion, and additives are fundamental to tuning molecular self-assembly and enhancing viscoelasticity. Here, we investigate the addition of sodium salicylate (NaSal) to hexadecyltrimethylammonium chloride and bromide (CTAC and CTAB) and 1-hexadecylpyridinium chloride and bromide (CPyCl and CPyBr), which have distinct counterions and headgroup structures but the same hydrophobic tail. Different contrasts are obtained from small-angle neutron scattering (SANS), which probes differences between the nucleus of atoms, and X-rays SAXS, which probes differences in electron density. If combined, this contrast allows us to define specific intramicellar length scales and intermicellar interactions. SANS signals are sensitive to the contrast between the solvent (D2O) and the hydrocarbonic tails in the micellar core (hydrogen), and SAXS can access the inner structure of the polar shell because the headgroups, counterions, and penetrated salt have higher electron densities compared to the solvent and to the micellar core. The number density, intermicellar distances, aggregation number, and inter/intramicellar repulsions are discussed on the basis of the dependence of the structure factor and form factor on the micellar aggregate morphology. Therefore, we confirm that micellar growth can be tuned by variations in the flexibility and size of the the headgroup as well as the ionic dissociation rate of its counterion. Additionally, we show that the counterion binding is even more significant to the development of viscoelasticity than the headgroup structure of a surfactant molecule. This is a surprising finding, showing the importance of electrostatic charges in the self-assembly process of ionic surfactant molecules.
Facility: SINQ, SLS

Reference: V. Lutz-Bueno et al, Langmuir 33, 2617 (2017)

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16 February 2017

New magnetic phase in the nickelate perovskite TlNiO3

The RNiO3 perovskites are known to order antiferromagnetically below a material-dependent Néel temperature TN. We report experimental evidence indicating the existence of a second magnetically ordered phase in TlNiO3 above TN = 104K, obtained using nuclear magnetic resonance and muon spin rotation spectroscopy. The new phase, which persists up to a temperature TN* = 202K, is suppressed by the application of an external magnetic field of approximately 1T. It is not yet known if such a phase also exists in other perovskite nickelates.
Facility: SμS

Reference: L. Korosec et al, Physical Review B 95, 060411(R) (2017) (editor's suggestion)

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10 February 2017

Magnetic Field Dependence of Excitations Near Spin-Orbital Quantum Criticality

The spinel FeSc2S4 has been proposed to realize a near-critical spin-orbital singlet (SOS) state, where entangled spin and orbital moments fluctuate in a global singlet state on the verge of spin and orbital order. Here we report powder inelastic neutron scattering measurements that observe the full bandwidth of magnetic excitations and we find that spin-orbital triplon excitations of an SOS state can capture well key aspects of the spectrum in both zero and applied magnetic fields up to 8.5 T. The observed shift of low-energy spectral weight to higher energies upon increasing applied field is naturally explained by the entangled spin-orbital character of the magnetic states, a behavior that is in strong contrast to spin-only singlet ground state systems, where the spin gap decreases upon increasing applied field.
Facility: SINQ

Reference: A. Biffin et al, Physical Review Letters 118, 067205 (2017)

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1 February 2017

Probing current-induced magnetic fields in Au|YIG heterostructures with low-energy muon spin spectroscopy

We investigated the depth dependence of current-induced magnetic fields in a bilayer of a normal metal (Au) and a ferrimagnetic insulator (Yttrium Iron Garnet—YIG) by using low energy muon spin spectroscopy (LE-μSR). This allows us to explore how these fields vary from the Au surface down to the buried Au|YIG interface, which is relevant to study physics like the spin-Hall effect. We observed a maximum shift of 0.4 G in the internal field of muons at the surface of Au film which is in close agreement with the value expected for Oersted fields. As muons are implanted closer to the Au|YIG interface, the shift is strongly suppressed, which we attribute to the dipolar fields present at the Au|YIG interface. Combining our measurements with modeling, we show that dipolar fields caused by the finite roughness of the Au|YIG interface consistently explain our observations. Our results, therefore, gauge the limits on the spa|ial resolution and the sensitivity of LE-μSR to the roughness of the buried magnetic interfaces, a prerequisite for future studies addressing current induced fields caused by the spin-accumulations due to the spin-Hall effect.
Facility: SμS

Reference: A. Aqeel et al, Applied Physics Letters 110, 062409 (2017)

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20 January 2017

Full Elasticity Tensor from Thermal Diffuse Scattering

We present a method for the precise determination of the full elasticity tensor from a single crystal diffraction experiment using monochromatic X-rays. For the two benchmark systems calcite and magnesium oxide, we show that the measurement of thermal diffuse scattering in the proximity of Bragg reflections provides accurate values of the complete set of elastic constants. This approach allows for a reliable and model-free determination of the elastic properties and can be performed together with crystal structure investigation in the same experiment.
Reference: B. Wehinger et al, Physical Review Letters 118, 035502 (2017)

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18 January 2017

Suppression of magnetic excitations near the surface of the topological Kondo insulator SmB6

We present a detailed investigation of the temperature and depth dependence of the magnetic properties of the three-dimensional topological Kondo insulator SmB6, in particular, near its surface. We find that local magnetic field fluctuations detected in the bulk are suppressed rapidly with decreasing depths, disappearing almost completely at the surface. We attribute the magnetic excitations to spin excitons in bulk SmB6, which produce local magnetic fields of about ∼1.8 mT fluctuating on a time scale of ∼60 ns. We find that the excitonic fluctuations are suppressed when approaching the surface on a length scale of ∼40-90 nm, accompanied by a small enhancement in static magnetic fields. We associate this length scale to the size of the excitonic state.
Facility: SμS

Reference: P.K. Biswas et al, Physical Review B (Rapid Communications) 95, 020410(R) (2017)

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12 January 2017

Structure and Interaction in the pH-Dependent Phase Behavior of Nanoparticle−Protein Systems

The pH-dependent structure and interaction of anionic silica nanoparticles (diameter 18 nm) with two globular model proteins, lysozyme and bovine serum albumin (BSA), have been studied. Cationic lysozyme adsorbs strongly on the nanoparticles, and the adsorption follows exponential growth as a function of lysozyme concentration, where the saturation value increases as pH approaches the isoelectric point (IEP) of lysozyme. By contrast, irrespective of pH, anionic BSA does not show any adsorption. Despite having a different nature of interactions, both proteins render a similar phase behavior where nanoparticle−protein systems transform from being one-phase (clear) to two-phase (turbid) above a critical protein concentration (CPC). The measurements have been carried out for a fixed concentration of silica nanoparticles (1 wt %) with varying protein concentrations (0-5 wt %)...
Facility: SINQ

Reference: I. Yadav et al, Langmuir 33, 1227 (2017)

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