Projects per year
The transition between paramagnetism and ferromagnetism is the paradigm for a continuous phase transition at finite temperature. When such a transition is tuned to zero temperature in clean materials, the growth of low-energy zero-point fluctuations potentially drives an array of phenomena, including the formation of novel states such as non-conventional superconductivity. Experimentally, the growth of the fluctuations, however, is curtailed and the transition becomes discontinuous as its temperature is reduced. This is understood to arise from non-analytic corrections to the free energy that always occur(1). In a recent theory(2,3), changes of the excitation spectrum are self-consistently considered alongside the ground state. This analysis reveals that a transition to a new state may be an alternative outcome. As the excitation spectrum (the 'disorder') is pivotal to promoting the new 'order' this mechanism is referred to as 'order by disorder'. Here, we report the discovery of modulated order in PrPtAl, consistent with complex spirals, at the boundary between paramagnetism and ferromagnetism, giving the first clear experimental realization of such a state.