Quantum Criticality Without Tuning in the Mixed Valence Compound β-YbAlB4

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Science  21 Jan 2011:
Vol. 331, Issue 6015, pp. 316-319
DOI: 10.1126/science.1197531

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Fermi liquid theory, the standard theory of metals, has been challenged by a number of observations of anomalous metallic behavior found in the vicinity of a quantum phase transition. The breakdown of the Fermi liquid is accomplished by fine-tuning the material to a quantum critical point by using a control parameter such as the magnetic field, pressure, or chemical composition. Our high-precision magnetization measurements of the ultrapure f-electron–based superconductor β-YbAlB4 demonstrate a scaling of its free energy that is indicative of zero-field quantum criticality without tuning in a metal. The breakdown of Fermi liquid behavior takes place in a mixed-valence state, which is in sharp contrast with other known examples of quantum critical f-electron systems that are magnetic Kondo lattice systems with integral valence.

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