Zigzag ladders with staggered magnetic chirality in the S=3/2 compound β-CaCr2O4
F. Damay, C. Martin, V. Hardy, A. Maignan, G. André, K. Knight, S. R. Giblin, and L. C. Chapon, Phys. Rev. B 81 (2010) 214405.
The crystal and magnetic structures of the S=3/2 antiferromagnet β-CaCr2O4 have been investigated by means of specific heat, magnetization, muon relaxation, and neutron powder diffraction between 300 and 1.5 K. In this compound, in which the unusual topology of the Cr3+ magnetic lattice can be described as a network of triangular "zigzag" ladders with legs parallel to c, a complex antiferromagnetic ordering with an incommensurate propagation vector k=(0,0,q) (q∼0.477 at 1.5 K) is evidenced below TN=21 K. This complex magnetic ordering can be described as a honeycomblike arrangement of cycloids, running along c, and presenting a unique pattern of staggered chirality. To understand the experimental observation of this staggered chirality, we propose to use antisymmetric Dzyaloshinskii-Moriya terms in the exchange Hamiltonian.