Magnetization reversal in ferro- and ferrimagnets is a well-known archetype of non-equilibrium processes, where the volume fractions of the oppositely magnetized domains vary and perfectly compensate each other at the coercive magnetic field. Here, we report on a fundamentally new pathway for magnetization reversal that is mediated by an antiferromagnetic state. Consequently, an atomic-scale compensation of the magnetization is realized at the coercive field, instead of the mesoscopic or macroscopic domain cancellation in canonical reversal processes. We demonstrate this unusual magnetization reversal on the Zn-doped polar magnet Fe$_2$Mo$_3$O$_8$. Hidden behind the conventional ferrimagnetic hysteresis loop, the surprising emergence of the antiferromagnetic phase at the coercive fields is disclosed by a sharp peak in the field-dependence of the electric polarization. In addition, at the magnetization reversal our THz spectroscopy studies reveal the reappearance of the magnon mode that is only present in the pristine antiferromagnetic state. According to our microscopic calculations, this unusual process is governed by the dominant intralayer coupling, strong easy-axis anisotropy and spin fluctuations, which result in a complex interplay between the ferrimagnetic and antiferromagnetic phases. Such antiferro-state-mediated reversal processes offer novel concepts for magnetization control, and may also emerge for other ferroic orders.
|Publication status||Submitted - 9-Nov-2022|