Spontaneous skyrmionic lattice from anisotropic symmetric exchange in a Ni-halide monolayer

Nat Commun. 2020 Nov 13;11(1):5784. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-19535-w.


Topological spin structures, such as magnetic skyrmions, hold great promises for data storage applications, thanks to their inherent stability. In most cases, skyrmions are stabilized by magnetic fields in non-centrosymmetric systems displaying the chiral Dzyaloshinskii-Moriya exchange interaction, while spontaneous skyrmion lattices have been reported in centrosymmetric itinerant magnets with long-range interactions. Here, a spontaneous anti-biskyrmion lattice with unique topology and chirality is predicted in the monolayer of a semiconducting and centrosymmetric metal halide, NiI2. Our first-principles and Monte Carlo simulations reveal that the anisotropies of the short-range symmetric exchange, when combined with magnetic frustration, can lead to an emergent chiral interaction that is responsible for the predicted topological spin structures. The proposed mechanism finds a prototypical manifestation in two-dimensional magnets, thus broadening the class of materials that can host spontaneous skyrmionic states.