Spin-Orbital Short-Range Order on a Honeycomb-Based Lattice

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Science  04 May 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6081, pp. 559-563
DOI: 10.1126/science.1212154

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Frustrated magnetic materials, in which local conditions for energy minimization are incompatible because of the lattice structure, can remain disordered to the lowest temperatures. Such is the case for Ba3CuSb2O9, which is magnetically anisotropic at the atomic scale but curiously isotropic on mesoscopic length and time scales. We find that the frustration of Wannier’s Ising model on the triangular lattice is imprinted in a nanostructured honeycomb lattice of Cu2+ ions that resists a coherent static Jahn-Teller distortion. The resulting two-dimensional random-bond spin-1/2 system on the honeycomb lattice has a broad spectrum of spin-dimer–like excitations and low-energy spin degrees of freedom that retain overall hexagonal symmetry.

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