Thermodynamics of emergent magnetic charge screening in artificial spin ice.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms12635
Electric charge screening is a fundamental principle governing the behaviour in a variety of systems in nature. Through reconfiguration of the local environment, the Coulomb attraction between electric charges is decreased, leading, for example, to the creation of polaron states in solids or hydration shells around proteins in water. Here, we directly visualize the real-time creation and decay of screened magnetic charge configurations in a two-dimensional artificial spin ice system, the dipolar dice lattice. By comparing the temperature dependent occurrence of screened and unscreened emergent magnetic charge defects, we determine that screened magnetic charges are indeed a result of local energy reduction and appear as a transient minimum energy state before the system relaxes towards the predicted ground state. These results highlight the important role of emergent magnetic charges in artificial spin ice, giving rise to screened charge excitations and the emergence of exotic low-temperature configurations.