Axion optical induction of antiferromagnetic order

Jian Xiang Qiu, Christian Tzschaschel, Junyeong Ahn, Anyuan Gao, Houchen Li, Xin Yue Zhang, Barun Ghosh, Chaowei Hu, Yu Xuan Wang, Yu Fei Liu, Damien Bérubé, Thao Dinh, Zhenhao Gong, Shang Wei Lien, Sheng Chin Ho, Bahadur Singh, Kenji Watanabe, Takashi Taniguchi, David C. Bell, Hai Zhou LuArun Bansil, Hsin Lin, Tay Rong Chang, Brian B. Zhou, Qiong Ma, Ashvin Vishwanath, Ni Ni, Su Yang Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Using circularly polarized light to control quantum matter is a highly intriguing topic in physics, chemistry and biology. Previous studies have demonstrated helicity-dependent optical control of chirality and magnetization, with important implications in asymmetric synthesis in chemistry; homochirality in biomolecules; and ferromagnetic spintronics. We report the surprising observation of helicity-dependent optical control of fully compensated antiferromagnetic order in two-dimensional even-layered MnBi2Te4, a topological axion insulator with neither chirality nor magnetization. To understand this control, we study an antiferromagnetic circular dichroism, which appears only in reflection but is absent in transmission. We show that the optical control and circular dichroism both arise from the optical axion electrodynamics. Our axion induction provides the possibility to optically control a family of PT-symmetric antiferromagnets (P, inversion; T, time-reversal) such as Cr2O3, even-layered CrI3 and possibly the pseudo-gap state in cuprates. In MnBi2Te4, this further opens the door for optical writing of a dissipationless circuit formed by topological edge states.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)583-590
Number of pages8
JournalNature Materials
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2023 May

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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