Out-of-equilibrium dynamics and extended textures of topological defects in spin ice
We study the interplay of topological bottlenecks and energetic barriers to equilibration in a Coulomb spin liquid where a short-range energetic coupling between defects charged under an emergent gauge field supplements their entropic long-range Coulomb interaction. This work is motivated by the prevalence of memory effects observed across a wide range of geometrically frustrated magnetic materials, possibly including the spontaneous Hall effect observed in Pr2Ir2O7. Our model is canonical spin-ice model on the pyrochlore lattice, where farther-neighbour spin couplings give rise to a nearest-neighbor interaction between topological defects which can easily be chosen to be unnatural or not, i.e. attractive or repulsive between defects of equal gauge charge. Among the novel features of this model are the following. After applying a field quench, a rich dynamical approach to equilibrium emerges, dominated by multi-scale energy barriers responsible for long-lived magnetization plateaux. These even allow for the metastability of a "fragmented" spin liquid, an elusive regime where partial order co-exists with a spin liquid. Perhaps most strikingly, the attraction produces clusters of defects whose stability is due to a combination of energetic barriers for their break-up and proximity of opposite charges along with an entropic barrier generated by the topological requirement of annihilating a defect only together with an oppositely charged counterpart. These clusters may take the form of a "jellyfish" spin texture, comprising an arrangement of same-sign gauge-charges, centered on a hexagonal ring with branches of arbitrary length. The ring carries a clockwise or counterclockwise circular flow of magnetisation. This emergent toroidal degrees of freedom provides a possibility for time reversal symmetry breaking with possible relevance to the spontaneous Hall effect observed in Pr2Ir2O7.
Online Publication Date