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Controlling inversion disorder in a stoichiometric spinel magnet

Publication Type
Journal Name
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Publication Date

In the study of frustrated quantum magnets, it is essential to be able to control the nature and degree of site disorder during the growth process, as many measurement techniques are incapable of distinguishing between site disorder and frustration-induced spin disorder. Pyrochlore-structured spinel oxides can serve as model systems of geometrically frustrated three-dimensional quantum magnets; however, the nature of the magnetism in one well-studied spinel, ZnFe2O4, remains unclear. Here, we demonstrate simultaneous control of both stoichiometry and inversion disorder in the growth of ZnFe2O4 single crystals, directly yielding a revised understanding of both the collective spin behavior and lattice symmetry. Crystals grown in the stoichiometric limit with minimal site inversion disorder contravene all the previously suggested exotic spin phases in ZnFe2O4. Furthermore, the structure is confirmed on the F4¯3m space group with broken inversion symmetry that induces antiferroelectricity. The effective tuning of magnetic behavior by site disorder in the presence of robust antiferroelectricity makes ZnFe2O4 of special interest to multiferroic devices.