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Revisiting spin ice physics in the ferromagnetic Ising pyrochlore Pr2Sn2O7

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Physical Review B
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Pyrochlore materials are characterized by their hallmark network of corner-sharing rare-earth tetrahedra, which can produce a wide array of complex magnetic ground states. Ferromagnetic Ising pyrochlores often obey the “two-in-two-out” spin ice rules, which can lead to a highly degenerate spin structure. Large moment systems, such as Ho2Ti2O7 and Dy2Ti2O7, tend to host a classical spin ice state with low-temperature spin freezing and emergent magnetic monopoles. Systems with smaller effective moments, such as Pr3+-based pyrochlores, have been proposed as excellent candidates for hosting a “quantum spin ice” characterized by entanglement and a slew of exotic quasiparticle excitations. However, experimental evidence for a quantum spin ice state has remained elusive. Here, we show that the low-temperature magnetic properties of Pr2Sn2O7 satisfy several important criteria for continued consideration as a quantum spin ice. We find that Pr2Sn2O7 exhibits two distinct spin-correlation time scales of τ≥10−4 and ∼10−10 s in the spin ice regime. Our comprehensive bulk characterization and neutron scattering measurements enable us to map out the magnetic field-temperature phase diagram, producing results consistent with expectations for a ferromagnetic Ising pyrochlore. We identify key hallmarks of spin ice physics and show that the application of small magnetic fields (μ0Hc∼0.5 T) suppresses the spin ice state and induces a field-polarized, ordered spin-ice phase. Together, our work clarifies the current state of Pr2Sn2O7 and encourages future studies aimed at exploring the potential for a quantum spin ice ground state in this system.