With large spin-orbit coupling, the electron configuration in d-metal oxides is prone to highly anisotropic exchange interactions and exotic magnetic properties. In 5d 5 iridates, given the existing variety of crystal structures, the magnetic anisotropy can be tuned from antisymmetric to symmetric Kitaev-type, with interaction strengths that outsize the isotropic terms. By many-body electronic-structure calculations we here address the nature of the magnetic exchange and the intriguing spin-glass behavior of Li2RhO3, a 4d5 honeycomb oxide. For pristine crystals without Rh-Li site inversion, we predict a dimerized ground state as in the isostructural 5d5 iridate Li2IrO 3, with triplet spin dimers effectively placed on a frustrated triangular lattice. With Rh-Li anti-site disorder, we explain the observed spin-glass phase as a superposition of different, nearly degenerate symmetry-broken configurations.
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We thank V.Yushankhai, Y. Singh, N.A. Bogdanov, and U.K. Rößler for useful discussions. L. H. acknowledges financial support from the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG). This work is supported by SFB 1143 of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.