Home / Research Highlights

Jahn-teller Distortion Driven Magnetic Polarons in Magnetite
H. Y. Huang, Z. Y. Chen, R.-P. Wang, F. M. F. de Groot, W. B. Wu, J. Okamoto, A. Chainani, A. Singh, Z.-Y. Li, J.-S. Zhou, H.-T. Jeng, G. Y. Guo, J.-G. Park, L. H. Tjeng, C. T. Chen, and D. J. Huang*
The first known magnetic mineral, magnetite, has unusual properties, which have fascinated mankind for centuries; it undergoes the Verwey transition around 120 K with an abrupt change in structure and electrical conductivity. The mechanism of the Verwey transition, however, remains contentious. Here we use resonant inelastic X-ray scattering over a wide temperature range across the Verwey transition to identify and separate out the magnetic excitations derived from nominal Fe2+ and Fe3+ states. Comparison of the experimental results with crystal-field multiplet calculations shows that the spin–orbital dd excitons of the Fe2+ sites arise from a tetragonal Jahn-Teller active polaronic distortion of the Fe2+O6 octahedra. These low-energy excitations, which get weakened for temperatures above 350 K but persist at least up to 550 K, are distinct from optical excitations and are best explained as magnetic polarons.