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Journal Article

Speed limit of the insulator-metal transition in magnetite


Chang,  C. F.
Chun-Fu Chang, Physics of Correlated Matter, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids, Max Planck Society;

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de Jong, S., Kukreja, R., Trabant, C., Pontius, N., Chang, C. F., Kachel, T., et al. (2013). Speed limit of the insulator-metal transition in magnetite. Nature Materials, 12(10), 882-886. doi:10.1038/nmat3718.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0015-1E4A-9
As the oldest known magnetic material, magnetite (Fe3O4) has fascinated mankind for millennia. As the first oxide in which a relationship between electrical conductivity and fluctuating/localized electronic order was shown(1), magnetite represents a model system for understanding correlated oxides in general. Nevertheless, the exact mechanism of the insulator-metal, or Verwey, transition has long remained inaccessible(2-8). Recently, three- Fe- site lattice distortions called trimeronswere identified as the characteristic building blocks of the low-temperature insulating electronically ordered phase(9). Here we investigate the Verwey transition with pump- probe X- ray diffraction and optical reflectivity techniques, and show how trimerons become mobile across the insulator-metal transition. We find this to be a two- step process. After an initial 300 fs destruction of individual trimerons, phase separation occurs on a 1.5 +/- 0.2 ps timescale to yield residual insulating and metallic regions. This work establishes the speed limit for switching in future oxide electronics(10).