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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Ultrafast spin-nematic and ferroelectric phase transitions induced by femtosecond light pulses


Optically induced phase transitions of the manganite Pr1/3Ca2/3MnO3 have been simulated by using a model Hamiltonian that captures the dynamics of strongly correlated charge, orbital, lattice, and spin degrees of freedom. Its parameters have been extracted from first-principles calculations. Beyond a critical intensity of a femtosecond light pulse, the material undergoes an ultrafast and nonthermal magnetic phase transition from a noncollinear to collinear antiferromagnetic phase. The light-pulse excites selectively either a spin-nematic or a ferroelectric phase, depending on the light polarization. The behavior can be traced to an optically induced ferromagnetic coupling between Mn trimers, i.e., polarons which are delocalized over three Mn sites. The polarization guides the polymerization of the polaronic crystal into distinct patterns of ferromagnetic chains determining the target phase.

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