Coexisting charge modulation and ferromagnetism produces long period phases in manganites: new example of electronic soft matter

Physics – Condensed Matter – Strongly Correlated Electrons

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13 pages 4 figures

Scientific paper

10.1038/nature03300

The phenomenon of colossal magnetoresistance in manganites is generally agreed to be a result of competition between crystal phases with different electronic, magnetic, and structural order; a competition which can be strong enough to cause phase separation between metallic ferromagnet and insulating charge modulated states. Nevertheless, closer inspection of phase diagrams in many manganites reveals complex phases where the two order parameters of magnetism and charge modulation unexpectedly coexist. Here we show that such experiments can be naturally explained within a phenomenological Ginzburg-Landau theory. In contrast to models where phase separation originates from disorder or as a strain induced kinetic phenomenon, we argue that magnetic and charge modulation coexist in new thermodynamic phases. This leads to a rich diagram of equilibrium phases, qualitatively similar to those seen in experiment. The success of this model argues for a fundamental reinterpretation of the nature of charge modulation in these materials from a localised to a more extended "charge density wave" picture. The same symmetry considerations that favour textured coexistance of charge and magnetic order may apply to many electronic systems with competing phases. The resulting "Electronically soft" phases of matter with incommensurate, inhomogeneous and mixed order may be general phenomena in correlated systems.

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