New exotic phenomena with promising perspectives for e.g. high-temperature superconductivity have recently been discovered in oxides of paramagnetic Ir(4+) ions, widely known as ‘iridates’.
Their remarkable properties originate from concerted effects of the chemical environment, magnetic interactions and the very strong spin-orbit coupling, characteristic of 5d metal ions. Despite numerous experimental reports, the electronic structure of these materials has remained challenging to elucidate which has hampered the advancement of the materials properties. This problem was recently overcome by a scientific cooperation between two research groups of “Molecular Materials & Magnetism” at the CRPP-CNRS and the “Chemistry and photonic of oxide and fluoride materials” at ICMCB-CNRS. The groups managed to design the first realistic molecular model system for an isolated Ir(4+) ion inside an iridate and unravel its unique electronic structure. In addition to serving as the best iridate model system for testing theories, it shows great promise for a new synthetic strategy using the versatile tools of soft chemistry to engineer new materials with properties anticipated to be exclusively reserved for traditional inorganic materials. These results appeared recently in Nature Communications [7 :12195]. This work was realized in collaboration with several other French and European laboratories including the University of Copenhagen, the Institut Néel and ESRF in Grenoble, the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland, the University of Oxford in UK and the Academy of Sciences of Moldova.