Zero-point entropy in 'spin ice'

A. P. Ramirez, A. Hayashi, R. J. Cava, R. Siddharthan, B. S. Shastry

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Common water ice (ice I(h)) is an unusual solid--the oxygen atoms form a periodic structure but the hydrogen atoms are highly disordered due to there being two inequivalent O-H bond lengths. Pauling showed that the presence of these two bond lengths leads to a macroscopic degeneracy of possible ground states, such that the system has finite entropy as the temperature tends towards zero. The dynamics associated with this degeneracy are experimentally inaccessible, however, as ice melts and the hydrogen dynamics cannot be studied independently of oxygen motion. An analogous systems in which this degeneracy can be studied is a magnet with the pyrochlore structure--termed 'spin ice'--where spin orientation plays a similar role to that of the hydrogen position in ice I(h). Here we present specific-heat data for one such system, Dy2Ti2O7, from which we infer a total spin entropy of 0.67Rln2. This is similar to the value, 0.71Rln2, determined for ice I(h), so confirming the validity of the correspondence. We also find, through application of a magnetic field, behaviour not accessible in water ice-- restoration of much of the ground-state entropy and new transitions involving transverse spin degrees of freedom.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)333-335
Number of pages3
Issue number6734
StatePublished - May 27 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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