Mobile metallic domain walls in an all-in-all-out magnetic insulator

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Science  30 Oct 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6260, pp. 538-541
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac8289

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Visualizing conducting domain walls

When a metal undergoes a phase transition and becomes insulating, it sometimes also becomes magnetically ordered. It is possible that some metallicity survives along the boundaries of magnetic domains, the so-called domain walls, but the question is difficult to address directly in experiments. Ma et al. did just that by mapping out the conductance of the material Nd2Ir2O7 in its low-temperature magnetic insulating phase, using microwave impedance microscopy. The magnetic domain walls showed up clearly in the images as regions of high conductance.

Science, this issue p. 538


Magnetic domain walls are boundaries between regions with different configurations of the same magnetic order. In a magnetic insulator, where the magnetic order is tied to its bulk insulating property, it has been postulated that electrical properties are drastically different along the domain walls, where the order is inevitably disturbed. Here we report the discovery of highly conductive magnetic domain walls in a magnetic insulator, Nd2Ir2O7, that has an unusual all-in-all-out magnetic order, via transport and spatially resolved microwave impedance microscopy. The domain walls have a virtually temperature-independent sheet resistance of ~1 kilohm per square, show smooth morphology with no preferred orientation, are free from pinning by disorders, and have strong thermal and magnetic field responses that agree with expectations for all-in-all-out magnetic order.

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