Filming the formation and fluctuation of skyrmion domains by cryo-Lorentz transmission electron microscopy
Magnetic skyrmions are promising candidates as information carriers in logic or storage devices thanks to their robustness, guaranteed by the topological protection, and their nanometric size. Currently, little is known about the influence of parameters such as disorder, defects, or external stimuli on the long-range spatial distribution and temporal evolution of the skyrmion lattice. Here, using a large (7.3×7.3 μm2) single-crystal nanoslice (150 nm thick) of Cu2OSeO3, we image up to 70,000 skyrmions by means of cryo-Lorentz transmission electron microscopy as a function of the applied magnetic field. The emergence of the skyrmion lattice from the helimagnetic phase is monitored, revealing the existence of a glassy skyrmion phase at the phase transition field, where patches of an octagonally distorted skyrmion lattice are also discovered. In the skyrmion phase, dislocations are shown to cause the emergence and switching between domains with different lattice orientations, and the temporal fluctuation of these domains is filmed. These results demonstrate the importance of direct-space and real-time imaging of skyrmion domains for addressing both their long-range topology and stability.