Despite the name, a quantum spin liquid is a solid material in which the weird property of quantum mechanics -- entanglement -- ensures a liquidlike magnetic state.
In a paper this week in Nature Physics, researchers offered a host of experimental evidence -- including crucial neutron-scattering experiments at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and muon spin relaxation experiments at Switzerland's Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) -- to support their case that cerium zirconium pyrochlore, in its single-crystal form, is the first material that qualifies as a 3D quantum spin liquid.
Quantum - Spin - Liquid - Something - Scientists
"A quantum spin liquid is something that scientists define based on what you don't see," said Rice's Pengcheng Dai, corresponding author of the study and a member of Rice's Center for Quantum Materials (RCQM). "You don't see long-range order in the arrangement of spins. You don't see disorder. And various other things. It's not this. It's not that. There's no conclusive positive identification."
The research team's samples are believed to be the first of their kind: Pyrochlores because of their 2-to-2-to-7 ratio of cerium, zirconium and oxygen, and single crystals because the atoms inside them are arranged in a continuous, unbroken lattice.
Experiment - Compound - Dai - Study - Co-author
"We've done every experiment that we could think of on this compound," Dai said. "(Study co-author) Emilia Morosan's group at Rice did heat capacity work to show that the material undergoes no phase transition down to 50 millikelvin. We did very careful crystallography to show there is no disorder in the crystal. We did muon spin relaxation experiments that demonstrated an absence of long-range magnetic order down to 20 millikelvin, and we did diffraction experiments that showed the sample has no oxygen vacancy or other known defects. Finally, we did inelastic neutron scattering that showed the presence of a spin-excitation continuum -- which may be a quantum spin liquid hallmark -- down to...
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