Global formation of topological defects in the multiferroic hexagonal manganites
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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OriginalversjonPhysical Review X. 2017, 7(4). 10.1103/PhysRevX.7.041014
The spontaneous transformations associated with symmetry-breaking phase transitions generate domain structures and defects that may be topological in nature. The formation of these defects can be described according to the Kibble-Zurek mechanism, which provides a generic relation that applies from cosmological to interatomic length scales. Its verification is challenging, however, in particular at the cosmological scale where experiments are impractical. While it has been demonstrated for selected condensed-matter systems, major questions remain regarding, e.g., its degree of universality. Here, we develop a global Kibble-Zurek picture from the condensed-matter level. We show theoretically that a transition between two fluctuation regimes (Ginzburg and mean field) can lead to an intermediate region with reversed scaling, and we verify experimentally this behavior for the structural transition in the series of multiferroic hexagonal manganites. Trends across the series allow us to identify additional intrinsic features of the defect formation beyond the original Kibble-Zurek paradigm.