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Freezing and thawing of artificial ice by thermal switching of geometric frustration in magnetic flux lattices

Using a masked ion irradiation technique that allows us to nanopattern the electronic properties of oxides, we experimentally realize a system in which the geometry of the potential-energy landscape for magnetic flux quanta (vortices) can be switched using temperature as the control knob. Depending on the temperature, the flux quanta induced by an applied magnetic field see either a geometrically frustrated energy landscape that favours an ice-like flux ordering, or an unfrustrated landscape that yields a periodic flux distribution. This effect is reflected in a dramatic change in the superconductor’s magneto-transport. The thermal switching of the energy landscape geometry provides a model for the study of ordering and reorganization in repulsive particle manifolds.
J. Trastoy et al., Nature Nanotechnology (2014)