Magnetic fluctuations and the spin–orbit interaction in Mott insulating CoO

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter, Volume 32, p.374011 (2020)



Motivated by the presence of an unquenched orbital angular momentum in CoO, a team at Chalk River, including a recently hired research officer Roger Cowley, performed the first inelastic neutron scattering experiments on the classic Mott insulator [Sakurai et al 1968 Phys. Rev. 167 510]. Despite identifying two magnon modes at the zone boundary, the team was unable to parameterise the low energy magnetic excitation spectrum below T N using conventional pseudo-bosonic approaches, instead achieving only qualitative agreement. It would not be for another 40 years that Roger, now at Oxford and motivated by the discovery of the high-T c cuprate superconductors [Bednorz and Muller 1986 Z. Phys. B 64 189], would make another attempt at the parameterisation of the magnetic excitation spectrum that had previously alluded him at the start of his career. Upon his return to CoO, Roger found a system embroiled in controversy, with some of its most fundamental parameters still remaining undetermined. Faced with such a formidable task, Roger performed a series of inelastic neutron scattering experiments in the early 2010s on both CoO and a magnetically dilute structural analogue Mg0.97Co0.03O. These experiments would prove instrumental in the determination of both single-ion [Cowley et al 2013 Phys. Rev. B 88 205117] and cooperative magnetic parameters [Sarte et al 2018 Phys. Rev. B 98 024415] for CoO. Both these sets of parameters would eventually be used in a spin&ndash;orbit exciton model [Sarte et al 2019 Phys. Rev. B 100 075143], developed by his longtime friend and collaborator Bill Buyers, to successfully parameterise the complex spectrum that both measured at Chalk River almost 50 years prior. The story of CoO is of one that has come full circle, one filled with both spectacular failures and intermittent, yet profound, little victories.