Encoding Complexity within Supramolecular Analogues of Frustrated Magnets
A B Cairns, M J Cliffe, J A M Paddison, D Daisenberger, M G Tucker, F-X Coudert and A L Goodwin
Nature Chemistry 8, 442-447 (2016)

The solid phases of gold(I) and/or silver(I) cyanides are supramolecular assemblies of inorganic polymer chains in which the key structural degrees of freedom—namely, the relative vertical shifts of neighbouring chains—are mathematically equivalent to the phase angles of rotating planar (‘XY’) spins. Here, we show how the supramolecular interactions between chains can be tuned to mimic different magnetic interactions. In this way, the structures of gold(I) and/or silver(I) cyanides reflect the phase behaviour of triangular XY magnets. Complex magnetic states predicted for this family of magnets—including collective spin-vortices of relevance to data storage applications—are realized in the structural chemistry of these cyanide polymers. Our results demonstrate how chemically simple inorganic materials can behave as structural analogues of otherwise inaccessible ‘toy’ spin models and also how the theoretical understanding of those models allows control over collective (‘emergent’) phenomena in supramolecular systems.

See also accompanying News and Views:
Systems Chemistry: All in a Spin
L Clark and P Lightfoot
Nature Chemistry 8, 402-404 (2016)