npj Quantum Materials ( IF 6.562 ) Pub Date : 2019-04-01 , DOI: 10.1038/s41535-019-0150-7 Lars J. Bannenberg, Heribert Wilhelm, Robert Cubitt, Ankit Labh, Marcus P. Schmidt, Eddy Lelièvre-Berna, Catherine Pappas, Maxim Mostovoy, Andrey O. Leonov
Magnetic skyrmions are topologically protected nanoscale spin textures with particle-like properties. In bulk cubic helimagnets, they appear under applied magnetic fields and condense spontaneously into a lattice in a narrow region of the phase diagram just below the magnetic ordering temperature, the so-called A-phase. Theory, however, predicts skyrmions to be locally stable in a wide range of magnetic fields and temperatures. Our neutron diffraction measurements reveal the formation of skyrmion states in large areas of the magnetic phase diagram, from the lowest temperatures up to the A-phase. We show that nascent and disappearing spiral states near critical lines catalyze topological charge changing processes, leading to the formation and destruction of skyrmionic states at low temperatures, which are thermodynamically stable or metastable depending on the orientation and strength of the magnetic field. Skyrmions are surprisingly resilient to high magnetic fields: the memory of skyrmion lattice states persists in the field polarized state, even when the skyrmion lattice signal has disappeared. These findings highlight the paramount role of magnetic anisotropies in stabilizing skyrmionic states and open up new routes for manipulating these quasi-particles towards energy-efficient spintronics applications.