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Physicists discover the first possible 3D quantum spin liquid


PICTURE: 3D representation of spin-excitation continuum – possible characteristic of a quantum spin liquid – observed in a monocrystalline sample of cerium zirconium pyrochlore during experiments …
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Credit: Tong Chen / Rice University

HOUSTON – (July 15, 2019) – There is no known way to prove the existence of a "quantum spin quantum liquid". The Rice University physicists and their collaborators have therefore done the same: they showed their single crystals of pyrochlore cerium and zirconium had the right to qualify as the first possible 3D version of the state of the much sought after material.

Despite its name, a quantum spin liquid is a solid material in which the strange property of quantum mechanics – entanglement – ensures a magnetic state similar to a liquid.

In a newspaper this week Physical Nature, researchers have come up with a wealth of experimental evidence – including crucial neutron scattering experiments at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and muon spin relaxation experiments at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) – in Switzerland – to support their thesis that cerium zirconium pyrochlore, in its monocrystalline form, is the first material that qualifies as 3D quantum spin liquid.

"Scientists are defining a quantum spin liquid based on what you do not see," said Rice's Pengcheng Dai, corresponding author of the study and a member of Rice's Quantum Materials Center (RCQM). "You do not see any long-term order in the arrangement of the towers, you do not see a mess, and a variety of other things, that's not it, it's not that there is no conclusive positive identification. "

The samples from the research team are considered the first of its kind: Pyrochlores because of their ratio of cerium, zirconium and oxygen from 2 to 7, and single crystals because their atoms are arranged from continuously and continuously. mesh.

"We did all the experiments we could think of on this compound," said Dai. "(Co-author of the study), Emilia Morosan's group at Rice performed a work on thermal capacity to show that the material undergoes no phase transition up to 50 millikelvins. We carried out a very detailed crystallography to show that there was no disorder in the crystal.We performed a relaxation of the spin of the muon, experiments demonstrating a lack of order. long-range magnetic order up to 20 millikelvins and diffraction experiments showing that the sample showed no oxygen deficiency nor any other known defect, then an inelastic neutron scattering highlighting the presence of ## EQU1 ## 39, a spin continuum excitation – which can be a quantum spin liquid quantum punch – up to 35 millikelvin ".

Dai, professor of physics and astronomy, attributed the success of the study to his colleagues, including co-authors Bin Gao and Tong Chen and co-author David Tam. Gao, a Rice postdoctoral research associate, created the monocrystalline samples in a floating zone laser furnace in the laboratory of Rutgers University's co-author, Sang-Wook Cheong. Tong, a student rice doctorate, helped Bin to conduct ORNL experiments that produced a spin-excited continuum indicating the presence of spin entanglement producing short-range order, and Tam, who also holds a doctorate in rice. student, directed muon spin rotation experiments at PSI.

Despite the team's efforts, Dai said that it was impossible to say with certainty that cerium-zirconium 227 was a spin liquid, in part because physicists do not have to worry about it. were not yet agreed on the experimental evidence needed to make this statement, and partly because the definition of a quantum spin the liquid is a state that exists at the absolute zero temperature, an ideal out of scope of any experience.

Quantum spin liquids are thought to occur in solid materials composed of magnetic atoms in particular crystal arrangements. The inherent property of electrons that leads to magnetism is spin, and electronic spins can only point up or down. In most materials, the tricks are randomly mixed, like a deck of cards, but the magnetic materials are different. In the magnets of refrigerators and MRI devices, spins detect their neighbors and collectively organize themselves in one direction. Physicists call this "long-range ferromagnetic order", and another important example of long-range magnetic order is antiferromagnetism, in which spins collectively arrange according to a scheme repetitive, up-down, up-down.

"In a solid with a periodic arrangement of spins, if you know what a spin is here, you can know what a spin is doing a lot, a lot of repetitions because of the long order term, "said the theoretical physicist of Rice – Andriy Nevidomskyy, associate professor of physics and astronomy and member of the RCQM.
"In a liquid, on the other hand, there is no order at long range.If you look at two molecules of water a millimeter away, for example, there is no However, because of their hydrogen-hydrogen bonds, they may still have an orderly arrangement at very short distances with nearby molecules, which would be an example of short range order. "

In 1973, the Nobel laureate physicist Philip Anderson proposed the idea of ​​quantum spin liquids, starting from the observation that this geometric arrangement of atoms in certain crystals could prevent the tangled spins from moving collectively in stable arrangements.

As noted by science writer Philip Ball, aptly described in 2017, "Imagine an antiferromagnetic – in which adjacent spins prefer to be oriented in opposite directions – on a triangular lattice.Each spin has two closest neighbors in a triangle, but antiparallel alignment can not be satisfied One possibility is that the spin lattice freezes in a messy "vitreous" state, but Anderson has shown that quantum mechanics allows the possibility of fluctuating variations even at zero This state is called quantum spin liquid, and Anderson later suggested that it could be connected to superconductivity at high temperature. "

The possibility that quantum spin liquids can explain high-temperature superconductivity has attracted widespread interest among condensed-matter physicists since the 1980s. Nevidomskyy added that this interest was further increasing when it was suggested that "some Examples of topological quantum spin liquids could be developed "qubits" for quantum computing.

"But I think part of the curiosity about quantum spin liquids is that they have resurfaced in many incarnations and theoretical propositions," he said. "And although we have theoretical models where we know, in fact, that the result will be a spin liquid, the search for a physical material that would respond to these properties has proved very difficult until it reaches the end of its life. Now there is no consensus in the field, so far any material – 2D or 3D – is a quantum spin liquid. "


Morosan is a professor of physics and astronomy, chemistry, materials science and nanotechnology at Rice and a member of the RCQM.

The RCQM is building on global partnerships and the strengths of more than 20 rice research groups to address issues related to quantum materials. The RCQM is supported by Rice's Vice-Rector and Vice-Rector of Research, Rice, Wiess School of Natural Sciences, Brown School of Engineering, Smalley-Curl Institute and departments of physics and astronomy, electrical engineering and computer science and materials science. and NanoEngineering.

Other co-authors of the study include Chien-Lung Huang and Rice's Hu Huoyu; Kalyan Sasmal and Brian Maple, both from the University of California at San Diego; Devashibhai Adroja from the Rutherford-Appleton Laboratory in the United Kingdom; Feng Ye, Huibo Cao, Gabriele Sala and Matthew Stone, all from the Neutron Scattering Division at ORNL; Christopher Baines and Joel Barker, both of PSI; Jae-Ho Chung from Rice University and Korea, Seoul; Xianghan Xu of Rutgers; Manivannan Nallaiyan and Stefano Spagna, both of Quantum Designs Inc. in San Diego; and Gang Chen from the University of Hong Kong and Shanghai Fudan University.

The research was funded by the Ministry of Energy (BES DE-SC0012311, BES DE-SC0019503, BES DE-FG02-04ER46105, BES KC0402010 and DE-AC05-00OR22725), the Robert A. Welch Foundation (C -1839 and C-1818), the National Science Foundation (DMR-1350237), the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2017K1A3A7A09016303), the Rutgers University, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation's EPiQS initiative (GBMF6402) and the Ministry of Science and Technology of China (2016YFA0301) and 2016YFA0300500).

High resolution images are available for download at:

https: //news network.rice.edu /new/files/2019 /07 /0715_CE227-sec1-lg.jpg? LEGEND: 3D representation of the spin-excitation continuum – a possible characteristic of a quantum spin liquid – observed in a monocrystalline sample of cerium zirconium pyrochlore during experiments conducted at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Inelastic neutron scattering experiments at the ORNL spallation neutralization source revealed a spin excitation continuum in cerium zirconium pyrochlore samples cooled to a temperature as low as 35 millikelvins. (Picture of Tong Chen / Rice University)

https: //news network.rice.edu /new/files/2019 /07 /0715_CE227-rgp2-lg.jpg? LEGEND: Physicists of Rice University (left) Tong Chen, Pengcheng Dai, David Tam, Andriy Nevidomskyy, Bin Gao and Emilia Morosan are co-authors of a Physical Nature This study revealed that single crystals of cerium zirconium pyrochlore were the first possible 3D quantum spin liquid, a material theorized for the first time in 1973. (Photo by Jeff Fitlow / Rice University)

https: //news network.rice.edu /new/files/2019 /07 /0715_CE227-ornl61R-lg.jpg? LEGEND: Bin Gao, co-senior author of a Physical Nature study on the first possible 3D quantum spin liquid at the CORELLI light line of the spallation neutralization source at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. (Photo by ORNL / Genevieve Martin)

https: //news network.rice.edu /new/files/2019 /07 /0715_CE227-ornl56r-lg.jpg? LEGEND: (From left to right) Huibo Cao, Instruments Researcher at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Bin Gao, Postdoctoral Fellow at Rice University, and Gabriele Sala, Feng Ye and Matt Stone, Instrument Researchers at ORNL, on the line CORELLI light source of ORNL spallation neutralization source. (Photo by ORNL / Genevieve Martin)

Related materials:

The DOI of the Physical Nature the paper is: 10.1038 / s41567-019-0577-6

A copy of the document is available at the following address: https: //www.nature.com /articles/s41567-019-0577-6.

Pengcheng Dai: pdai.phys.rice.edu

Andriy Nevidomskyy: physics.rice.edu/people/andriy-nevidomskyy

Emilia Morosan: morosan.rice.edu

Rice Department of Physics and Astronomy: physics.rice.edu

School of Natural Sciences Wiess: naturalsciences.rice.edu

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