The large degeneracy of states resulting from the geometrical frustration of competing interactions is an essential ingredient of important problems in fields as diverse as magnetism, protein folding and neural networks. As first explained by Pauling, geometrical frustration of proton positions is also responsible for the unusual low-temperature thermodynamics of ice and its measured 'ground state' entropy. Recent work has shown that the geometrical frustration of ice is mimicked by Dy2Ti2O7, a site-ordered magnetic material in which the spins reside on a lattice of corner-sharing tetrahedra where they form an unusual magnetic ground state known as 'spin ice'. Here we identify a cooperative spin-freezing transition leading to the spin-ice ground state in Dy2Ti2O7. This transition is associated with a very narrow range of relaxation times, and represents a new form of spin-freezing. The dynamics are analogous to those associated with the freezing of protons in ice, and they provide a means through which to study glass-like behaviour and the consequences of frustration in the limit of low disorder.
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