Speed limit of the insulator-metal transition in magnetite

S. De Jong, R. Kukreja, C. Trabant, N. Pontius, C. F. Chang, T. Kachel, M. Beye, F. Sorgenfrei, C. H. Back, B. Bräuer, W. F. Schlotter, J. J. Turner, O. Krupin, M. Doehler, D. Zhu, M. A. Hossain, A. O. Scherz, D. Fausti, F. Novelli, M. EspositoW. S. Lee, Y. D. Chuang, D. H. Lu, R. G. Moore, M. Yi, M. Trigo, P. Kirchmann, L. Pathey, M. S. Golden, M. Buchholz, P. Metcalf, F. Parmigiani, W. Wurth, A. Föhlisch, C. Schüßler-Langeheine, H. A. Dürr

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

117 Scopus citations

Abstract

As the oldest known magnetic material, magnetite (Fe 3 O 4) has fascinated mankind for millennia. As the first oxide in which a relationship between electrical conductivity and fluctuating/localized electronic order was shown, magnetite represents a model system for understanding correlated oxides in general. Nevertheless, the exact mechanism of the insulator-metal, or Verwey, transition has long remained inaccessible. Recently, three-Fe-site lattice distortions called trimerons were identified as the characteristic building blocks of the lowerature insulating electronically ordered phase. Here we investigate the Verwey transition with pump-probe X-ray diffraction and optical reflectivity techniques, and show how trimerons become mobile across the insulator-metal transition. We find this to be a two-step process. After an initial 300 fs destruction of individual trimerons, phase separation occurs on a 1.5±0.2 ps timescale to yield residual insulating and metallic regions. This work establishes the speed limit for switching in future oxide electronics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)882-886
Number of pages5
JournalNature Materials
Volume12
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes

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