Topological spin excitations observed in a three-dimensional antiferromagnet.
Band topology, or global wave-function structure that enforces novel properties in the bulk and on the surface of crystalline materials, is currently under intense investigations for both fundamental interest and its technological promises. While band crossing of non-trivial topological nature was first studied in three dimensions for electrons, the underlying physical idea is not restricted to fermionic excitations. In fact, experiments have confirmed the possibility to have topological band crossing of electromagnetic waves in artificial structures. Fundamental bosonic excitations in real crystals, however, have not been observed to exhibit the counterpart under ambient pressure and magnetic field, where the difficulty is in part because natural materials cannot be precisely engineered like artificial structures. Here, we use inelastic neutron scattering to reveal the presence of topological spin excitations (magnons) in a three-dimensional antiferromagnet, Cu3TeO6, which features a unique lattice of magnetic spin-1/2 Cu2+ ions. Beyond previous understanding, we find that the material's spin lattice possesses a variety of exchange interactions, with the interaction between the ninth-nearest neighbours being as strong as that between the nearest neighbours. Although theoretical analysis indicates that the presence of topological magnon band crossing is independent of model details, Cu3TeO6 turns out to be highly favourable for the experimental observation, as its optical magnons are spectrally sharp and intense due to the highly interconnected spin network and the large magnetic cell. The observed magnon band crossing generally has the form of a special type of Z2-topological nodal lines that are yet to be found in fermion systems, rendering magnon systems a fertile ground for exploring novel band topology.
Publisher URL: http://arxiv.org/abs/1711.00632