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Pressure control of magnetic order and excitations in the pyrochlore antiferromagnet MgCr2O4

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Physical Review B
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MgCr2O4 is one of the best-known realizations of the pyrochlore-lattice Heisenberg antiferromagnet. The strong antiferromagnetic exchange interactions are perturbed by small further-neighbor exchanges such that this compound may in principle realize a spiral spin liquid (SSL) phase in the zero-temperature limit. However, a spin Jahn-Teller transition below TN≈13 K yields a complicated long-range magnetic order with multiple coexisting propagation vectors. We present neutron scattering and thermomagnetic measurements of MgCr2O4 samples under applied hydrostatic pressure up to P=1.7 GPa demonstrating the existence of multiple close-lying nearly degenerate magnetic ground states. We show that the application of hydrostatic pressure increases the ordering temperature by around 0.8 K per GPa and increases the bandwidth of the magnetic excitations by around 0.5 meV per GPa. We also evidence a strong tendency for the preferential occupation of a subset of magnetic domains under pressure. In particular, we show that the k=(0,0,1) magnetic phase, which is almost negligible at ambient pressure, dramatically increases in spectral weight under pressure. This modifies the spectrum of magnetic excitations, which we interpret unambiguously as spin waves from multiple magnetic domains. Moreover, we report that the application of pressure reveals a feature in the magnetic susceptibility above the magnetostructural transition. We interpret this as the onset of a short-range ordered phase associated with k=(0,0,1), previously not observed in magnetometry measurements.