Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Novel Route to Quantum Spin Liquids

Observed only in the past decade, quantum spin liquids (QSLs) are currently the focus of intense research. Potential applications range from quantum computing and electronic data storage, to high-temperature superconductivity. A multi-national research team has demonstrated that an unusual form of quantum spin dynamics suggestive of a QSL is present at low temperatures in the iridium-based compound Na2IrO3. In a first for the field of QSL research, the team unequivocally showed that the iridium compound achieves its quantum state through “bond-directional interactions,” wherein the electronic spin interactions of the compound are intertwined with its crystallographic directions. 

By establishing that these bond-directional interactions can suppress the iridium compound's magnetic ordering, the scientists have provided a new path for realizing the QSL state in a variety of materials. The electronic and magnetic structure of two Na2IrO3 samples were characterized by x-ray measurements performed at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Advanced Photon Source (APS) and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF).

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