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Concept# Skyrmion

Summary

In particle theory, the skyrmion (ˈskɜrmi.ɒn) is a topologically stable field configuration of a certain class of non-linear sigma models. It was originally proposed as a model of the nucleon by (and named after) Tony Skyrme in 1961. As a topological soliton in the pion field, it has the remarkable property of being able to model, with reasonable accuracy, multiple low-energy properties of the nucleon, simply by fixing the nucleon radius. It has since found application in solid-state physics, as well as having ties to certain areas of string theory.
Skyrmions as topological objects are important in solid-state physics, especially in the emerging technology of spintronics. A two-dimensional magnetic skyrmion, as a topological object, is formed, e.g., from a 3D effective-spin "hedgehog" (in the field of micromagnetics: out of a so-called "Bloch point" singularity of homotopy degree +1) by a stereographic projection, whereby the positive north-pole spin is mapped onto a far-off edge circle of a 2D-disk, while the negative south-pole spin is mapped onto the center of the disk. In a spinor field such as for example photonic or polariton fluids the skyrmion topology corresponds to a full Poincaré beam (a spin vortex comprising all the states of polarization mapped by a stereographic projection of the Poincaré sphere to the real plane). A dynamical pseudospin skyrmion results from the stereographic projection of a rotating polariton Bloch sphere in the case of dynamical full Bloch beams.
Skyrmions have been reported, but not conclusively proven, to be in Bose–Einstein condensates, thin magnetic films and in chiral nematic liquid crystals.
As a model of the nucleon, the topological stability of the skyrmion can be interpreted as a statement that the baryon number is conserved; i.e. that the proton does not decay. The Skyrme Lagrangian is essentially a one-parameter model of the nucleon. Fixing the parameter fixes the proton radius, and also fixes all other low-energy properties, which appear to be correct to about 30%.

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Related publications (23)

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Skyrmion

In particle theory, the skyrmion (ˈskɜrmi.ɒn) is a topologically stable field configuration of a certain class of non-linear sigma models. It was originally proposed as a model of the nucleon by (and named after) Tony Skyrme in 1961. As a topological soliton in the pion field, it has the remarkable property of being able to model, with reasonable accuracy, multiple low-energy properties of the nucleon, simply by fixing the nucleon radius. It has since found application in solid-state physics, as well as having ties to certain areas of string theory.

Lagrangian (field theory)

Lagrangian field theory is a formalism in classical field theory. It is the field-theoretic analogue of Lagrangian mechanics. Lagrangian mechanics is used to analyze the motion of a system of discrete particles each with a finite number of degrees of freedom. Lagrangian field theory applies to continua and fields, which have an infinite number of degrees of freedom.

Sigma model

In physics, a sigma model is a field theory that describes the field as a point particle confined to move on a fixed manifold. This manifold can be taken to be any Riemannian manifold, although it is most commonly taken to be either a Lie group or a symmetric space. The model may or may not be quantized. An example of the non-quantized version is the Skyrme model; it cannot be quantized due to non-linearities of power greater than 4. In general, sigma models admit (classical) topological soliton solutions, for example, the Skyrmion for the Skyrme model.

Related courses (2)

PHYS-639: Field Theory in Condensed Matter Physics

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length and sub-ns time scales such as transmission electron microsc

Henrik Moodysson Rønnow, Jonathan White

Co-Zn-Mn chiral cubic magnets display versatile magnetic skyrmion phases, including equilibrium phases stable far above and far below room temperature, and the facile creation of robust far-from-equilibrium skyrmion states. In this system, compositional disorder and magnetic frustration are key ingredients that have profound effects on the chiral magnetism. Reported here are studies of the magnetism in Co6.75Zn6.75Mn6.5 by magnetometry, small-angle neutron scattering (SANS), magnetic diffuse neutron scattering and Lorentz transmission electron microscopy (LTEM). While features in magnetometry and LTEM often give standard indications for skyrmion formation, they are not readily observed from the measurements on this system. Instead, skyrmion lattice correlations are only revealed by SANS, and they are found to form an orientationally disordered structure in a minority fraction of the sample. The majority fraction of the sample always displays orientationally disordered helical spin correlations, which undergo further disordering along the radial direction on cooling below the critical temperature (T-c similar or equal to 102 K). The near-complete suppression of the skyrmion phase, and the process of disordering on cooling, are attributed to competing magnetic interactions that dominate over the ferromagnetic interaction expected to favour chiral magnetism in this system. These competing interactions start to develop above T-c and become further enhanced towards low temperatures. The present observations of co-existing and disordered magnetic correlations over multiple length scales are not unique to Co6.75Zn6.75Mn6.5 but are seemingly common to the family of Co-Zn-Mn compounds with finite Mn, and their accurate description presents a challenge for theoretical modelling. In addition, this study highlights a need for neutron instrumentation capable of the comprehensive measurement of magnetic correlations over expanded ranges of momentum transfer in such multiplelength-scale magnets.

Magnetic skyrmions are nanometric and non-trivial spin textures with non-zero topological charge. Their robustness against perturbations and the possibility to control them using external stimuli make them ideal candidates for future spintronic applications. In particular the magnetoelectric skyrmion host Cu2OSeO3 holds a lot of promise for low power devices since skyrmions in this compound can be controlled by electric fields alone. Using Lorentz transmission electron microscopy to perform real space and real time biasing experiments on thin lamellas of Cu2OSeO3 in a geometry that is most suitable for technological applications, we observe reproducible creation and annihilation of skyrmions. For a more quantitative analysis, we develop new feature detection algorithms to reliably extract skyrmion positions even in noisy images. We further produce Due to its low pinning, Cu2OSeO3 allows for the formation of large and well-arranged triangular skyrmion lattices. This makes this compound a perfect testbed to study the evolution of skyrmion configurations under external stimuli. Experiments are carried out again using Lorentz transmission electron microscopy on thin lamellas of Cu2OSeO3. We investigate how defects in skyrmion lattices are arranged at grain boundaries and develop algorithms to extract them and to directly visualize their alignment. These defects are at the core of the melting of skyrmion lattices in this system. We show that a controlled magnetic field ramp can induce skyrmion ensembles in Cu2OSeO3 to transition from a two-dimensional solid through a thus far unknown ordered liquid phase called the hexatic phase, to a liquid. We find that this transition is a topological defect-induced two-step process as predicted by the Kosterlitz-Thouless-Halperin-Nelson-Young (KTHNY) theory. Finally, we go beyond equilibrium phenomena to explore the effect of quenching the system from its liquid phase to its solid phase using different quench rates and find first evidence that our system belongs to the Kibble-Zurek universality class.

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Magnetic skyrmions are topologically stable swirling spin textures with particle-like character, and have been intensively studied as a candidate of high-density information bit. While magnetic skyrmions were originally discovered in noncentrosymmetric systems with Dzyaloshinskii-Moriya interaction, recently a nanometric skyrmion lattice has also been reported for centrosymmetric rare-earth compounds, such as Gd2PdSi3 and GdRu2Si2. For the latter systems, a distinct skyrmion formation mechanism mediated by itinerant electrons has been proposed, and the search of a simpler model system allowing for a better understanding of their intricate magnetic phase diagram is highly demanded. Here, we report the discovery of square and rhombic lattices of nanometric skyrmions in a centrosymmetric binary compound EuAl4, by performing small-angle neutron and resonant elastic X-ray scattering experiments. Unlike previously reported centrosymmetric skyrmion-hosting materials, EuAl4 shows multiple-step reorientation of the fundamental magnetic modulation vector as a function of magnetic field, probably reflecting a delicate balance of associated itinerant-electron-mediated interactions. The present results demonstrate that a variety of distinctive skyrmion orders can be derived even in a simple centrosymmetric binary compound, which highlights rare-earth intermetallic systems as a promising platform to realize/control the competition of multiple topological magnetic phases in a single material. Typically, skyrmions appear in magnet systems which are non-centrosymmetric. Here, using neutron and X-ray scattering, Takagi et al show the emergence of a skyrmion phase in the centrosymmetric material EuAl4. This expands the range of materials potential hosting skyrmions.

2022