The self-organization of strongly interacting electrons into superlattice structures underlies the properties of many quantum materials. How these electrons arrange within the superlattice dictates what symmetries are broken and what ground states are stabilized. Here we show that cryogenic scanning transmission electron microscopy (cryo-STEM) enables direct mapping of local symmetries and order at the intra-unit-cell level in the model charge-ordered system Nd1/2Sr1/2MnO3. In addition to imaging the prototypical site-centered charge order, we discover the nanoscale coexistence of an exotic intermediate state which mixes site and bond order and breaks inversion symmetry. We further show that nonlinear coupling of distinct lattice modes controls the selection between competing ground states. The results demonstrate the importance of lattice coupling for understanding and manipulating the character of electronic self-organization and that cryo-STEM can reveal local order in strongly correlated systems at the atomic scale.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Chemistry
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
- General Physics and Astronomy