NaCo2(SeO3)2(OH): competing magnetic ground states of a new sawtooth structure with 3d7 Co2+ ions†
While certain magnetic sublattices have long been known theoretically to give rise to emergent physics via competing magnetic interactions and quantum effects, finding such configurations in real materials is often deeply challenging. Here we report the synthesis and characterization of a new such material, NaCo2(SeO3)2(OH) which crystallizes with a highly frustrated sublattice of sawtooth Co2+ chains. Single crystals of NaCo2(SeO3)2(OH) were synthesized using a low-temperature hydrothermal method. X-ray single crystal structure analysis reveals that the material crystallizes in orthorhombic space group of Pnma (no. 62). Its crystal structure exhibits one-dimensional chains of corner-sharing isosceles triangles that are made of two crystallographically distinct 3d7 Co2+ sites (Co(1) and Co(2)). The chains run along the b-axis and are interconnected via [SeO3] groups to form a three-dimensional structure mediating super-exchange interactions. The temperature dependent magnetization data show a ferromagnetic-like (FM) transition at 11 K (T1) followed by an antiferromagnetic (AFM) transition at about 6 K (T2). Neutron-powder diffraction measurements reveal that at T1 = 11 K only the Co(2) site orders magnetically, forming ferromagnetic zigzag chains along the b-axis. Below T2 = 6 K, both Co(1) and Co(2) sites order in a nearly orthogonal configuration, with Co(1) moments lying inside the plane of the sawtooth chain while Co(2) moments cant out of the plane. The canting of the magnetic moments leads to a net ferromagnetic component along b-axis, parallel to the chain direction. The ordered moments are fully compensated in the ac-plane. Inelastic neutron scattering measurements reveal crystal field excitations that are consistent with the presence of a spin–orbital entangled pseudo-spin state Jeff = 1/2 for the Co2+ ions. Low-energy spin-wave excitations are observed below the second magnetic transition. The analysis of powder excitation spectrum suggests complex exchange interactions that go beyond a Heisenberg Hamiltonian model with nearest neighbor couplings. Our results demonstrate the richness of the magnetic properties of sawtooth-type structures and encourage the study of similar structures with different oxyanion groups.