Emergent Gapless Fermions in Strongly-Correlated Phases of Matter and Quantum Critical Points
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AbstractStates with gapless degrees of freedom are typically more complicated and less well- understood than systems possessing a gap. In this thesis, we study strongly-correlated systems described by gapless fermions. In most of the systems we consider, the fermionic excitations are emergent, i.e. they are not adiabatically connected to the electrons which constitute the fundamental building blocks of the system in question.
We start by proposing several novel states of matter which we claim are relevant to strongly-correlated systems. The rst state we present is a fractionalized Fermi liquid on the surface of a topological Kondo insulator. A Kondo insulator is a material which becomes insulating at low temperatures as a result of strong electron-spin interactions. When spin- orbit coupling is present, this insulator might be topological and, consequently, host robust gapless surface modes. Given the strong interactions and the decreased dimensionality of the surface, we propose that the spins and electrons there may decouple, resulting in the formation of a fractionalized Fermi liquid.
We next argue that quantum electrodynamics in 2+1 dimensions (QED3) with Nf = 4 fermion avours may describe a continuous, decon ned phase transition connecting the 120◦ coplanar Néel phase and the √12 × √12 valence bond solid phase of the triangular lattice antiferromagnet (AF). In addition to being a critical point, QED3 is also believed to describe a critical phase of matter called the Dirac spin liquid. Regardless of whether QED3 is manifest as a phase or a critical point, impurities and imperfections are always present in the real world, and it is therefore important to understand what e ects this may have. We show that when QED3 is perturbed by weak disorder, under certain circumstances, it ows to a new critical point in which both interactions and disorder are present.
Conclusively identifying a system described by QED3 has proven to be a di cult task, not only experimentally, but in numerical studies as well. Since QED3 is a critical theory, its spectrum on a torus is a universal quantity dependent only on low-energy degrees of freedom, such as the torus area. It follows that this data is accessible via exact diagonalization and can serve as an identifying signature of the theory. To this end, we calculate the QED3 torus spectrum using path integral methods.
We conclude this thesis with a comprehensive study of gapped Z2 spin liquids of the square lattice antiferrogmagnet, using a critical theory of Dirac fermions coupled to an SU(2) gauge eld as a starting point. There are many di erent Z2 spin liquid groundstates which preserve the same symmetry group. Even if one knows that a system has a Z2 spin liquid groundstate, it is by no means obvious which Z2 spin liquid is being realized. By starting from a gapless theory, the set of possibilities can be reduce considerably. Further, using certain recently proposed dualities, comparisons with theories formulated using bosons can be made.
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