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Spontaneous Chirality Flipping in an Orthogonal Spin-Charge Ordered Topological Magnet

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Physical Review X
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The asymmetric distribution of chiral objects with opposite chirality is of great fundamental interest ranging from molecular biology to particle physics. In quantum materials, chiral states can build on inversion-symmetry-breaking lattice structures or emerge from spontaneous magnetic ordering induced by competing interactions. Although the handedness of a chiral state can be changed through external fields, a spontaneous chirality flipping has yet to be discovered. We present experimental evidence of chirality flipping via changing temperature in a topological magnet EuAl4, which features orthogonal spin density waves (SDW) and charge density waves (CDW). Using circular dichroism of Bragg peaks in the resonant magnetic x-ray scattering, we find that the chirality of the helical SDW flips through a first-order phase transition with modified SDW wavelength. Intriguingly, we observe that the CDW couples strongly with the SDW and displays a rare commensurate-to-incommensurate transition at the chirality flipping temperature. Combining with first-principles calculations and angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy, our results support a Fermi surface origin of the helical SDW with intertwined spin, charge, and lattice degrees of freedom in EuAl4. Our results reveal an unprecedented spontaneous chirality flipping and lay the groundwork for a new functional manipulation of chirality through momentum-dependent spin-charge-lattice interactions.