The Heusler-derived multiferroic alloy Ni 50-xCo xMn 40Sn 10 has recently been shown to exhibit, at just above room temperature, a highly reversible martensitic phase transformation with an unusually large magnetization change. In this work the nature of the magnetic ordering above and below this transformation has been studied in detail in the critical composition range x = 6-8 via temperature-dependent (5-600 K) magnetometry and small-angle neutron scattering (SANS). We observe fairly typical paramagnetic to long-range-ordered ferromagnetic phase transitions on cooling to 420-430 K, with the expected critical spin fluctuations, followed by first-order martensitic phase transformations to a nonferromagnetic state below 360-390 K. The static magnetization reveals complex magnetism in this low-temperature nonferromagnetic phase, including a Langevin-like field dependence, distinct spin freezing near 60 K, and significant exchange bias effects, consistent with superparamagnetic blocking of ferromagnetic clusters of nanoscopic dimensions. We demonstrate that these spin clusters, whose existence has been hypothesized in a variety of martensitic alloys exhibiting competition between ferromagnetic and antiferromagnetic exchange interactions, can be directly observed by SANS. The scattering data are consistent with a liquidlike spatial distribution of interacting magnetic clusters with a mean center-to-center spacing of 12 nm. Considering the behavior of the superparmagnetism, cooling-field and temperature-dependent exchange bias, and magnetic SANS, we discuss in detail the physical form and origin of these spin clusters, their intercluster interactions, the nature of the ground-state magnetic ordering in the martensitic phase, and the implications for our understanding of such alloy systems.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Journal||Physical Review B - Condensed Matter and Materials Physics|
|State||Published - Apr 27 2012|