We use neutron scattering to show that ferromagnetic (FM) phase transition in the two-dimensional (2D) honeycomb lattice CrI3 is a weakly first order transition and controlled by spin-orbit coupling (SOC) induced magnetic anisotropy, instead of magnetic exchange coupling as in a conventional ferromagnet. With increasing temperature, the magnitude of magnetic anisotropy, seen as a spin gap at the Brillouin zone center, decreases in a power law fashion and vanishes at TC, while the in-plane and c-axis spin-wave stiffnesses associated with magnetic exchange couplings remain robust at TC. We also compare parameter regimes where spin waves in CrI3 can be described by a Heisenberg Hamiltonian with Dzyaloshinskii-Moriya interaction or a Heisenberg-Kitaev Hamiltonian. These results suggest that the SOC induced magnetic anisotropy plays a dominant role in stabilizing the FM order in single layer 2D van der Waals ferromagnets.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
- Condensed Matter Physics