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Pseudospin-lattice coupling and electric control of the square-lattice iridate Sr2IrO4...

by Feng Ye, Christina M Hoffmann, Wei Tian, Hengdi Zhao, Gang Cao
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Physical Review B
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Sr2IrO4 is an archetypal spin-orbit-coupled Mott insulator and has been extensively studied in part because of a wide range of predicted states. Limited experimental characterization of these states thus far brings to light the extraordinary susceptibility of the physical properties to the lattice, particularly, the Ir-O-Ir bond angle. Here, we report a microscopic rotation of the IrO6 octahedra below 50 K measured by single crystal neutron diffraction. This sharp lattice anomaly provides keys to understanding the anomalous low-temperature physics and a direct confirmation of a crucial role that the Ir-O-Ir bond angle plays in determining the ground state. Indeed, as also demonstrated in this study, applied electric current readily weakens the antiferromagnetic order via the straightening of the Ir-O-Ir bond angle, highlighting that even slight change in the local structure can disproportionately affect the physical properties in the spin-orbit-coupled system.