Spin Density Wave Instability in a Ferromagnet
Due to its cooperative nature, magnetic ordering involves a complex interplay between spin, charge, and lattice degrees of freedom, which can lead to strong competition between magnetic states. Binary Fe₃Ga₄ is one such material that exhibits competing orders having a ferromagnetic (FM) ground state, an antiferromagnetic (AFM) behavior at intermediate temperatures, and a conspicuous re-entrance of the FM state at high temperature. Through a combination of neutron diffraction experiments and simulations, we have discovered that the AFM state is an incommensurate spin-density wave (ISDW) ordering generated by nesting in the spin polarized Fermi surface. These two magnetic states, FM and ISDW, are seldom observed in the same material without application of a polarizing magnetic field. To date, this unusual mechanism has never been observed and its elemental origins could have far reaching implications in many other magnetic systems that contain strong competition between these types of magnetic order. Furthermore, the competition between magnetic states results in a susceptibility to external perturbations allowing the magnetic transitions in Fe3Ga4 to be controlled via temperature, magnetic field, disorder, and pressure. Thus, Fe₃Ga₄ has potential for application in novel magnetic memory devices, such as the magnetic components of tunneling magnetoresistance spintronics devices.