Macroscopic magnetic frustration

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Although geometrical frustration transcends scale, it has primarily been evoked in the micro- and mesoscopic realm to characterize such phases as spin ice, liquids, and glasses and to explain the behavior of such materials as multiferroics, high-temperature superconductors, colloids, and copolymers. Here we introduce a system of macroscopic ferromagnetic rotors arranged in a planar lattice capable of out-of-plane movement that exhibit the characteristic honeycomb spin ice rules studied and seen so far only in its mesoscopic manifestation. We find that a polarized initial state of this system settles into the honeycomb spin ice phase with relaxation on multiple time scales. We explain this relaxation process using a minimal classical mechanical model that includes Coulombic interactions between magnetic charges located at the ends of the magnets and viscous dissipation at the hinges. Our study shows how macroscopic frustration arises in a purely classical setting that is amenable to experiment, easy manipulation, theory, and computation, and shows phenomena that are not visible in their microscopic counterparts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number257203
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number25
StatePublished - 17 Dec 2012


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