Discovery of a spontaneous atomic-scale magnetic skyrmion lattice in two dimensions


Skyrmions are topologically protected field configurations with particle-like properties which play an important role in various fields of science ranging from elementary particles to condensed matter physics. Particularly exciting was the recent discovery of skyrmions in magnetism observed in a special class of magnetic bulk alloys: MnSi, FeGe, and CoFeSi. In these systems a lattice of skyrmions on the scale of 20 to 90 nm was induced by an external magnetic field. In contrast, the group of Stefan Heinze in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Hamburg and the Forschungszentrum Jülich now reports in Nature Physics the observation of an atomic-scale magnetic skyrmion lattice as the spontaneous ground state of an ultra-thin film on a surface. This discovery opens new vistas to locally probe and manipulate the static, dynamic, and spin transport properties of topologically protected spin textures at surfaces or interfaces.
Image: Courtesy of M. Menzel (Univ. Hamburg