Universal Signatures of Fractionalized Quantum Critical Points

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Science  13 Jan 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6065, pp. 193-195
DOI: 10.1126/science.1212207

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Ground states of certain materials can support exotic excitations with a charge equal to a fraction of the fundamental electron charge. The condensation of these fractionalized particles has been predicted to drive unusual quantum phase transitions. Through numerical and theoretical analysis of a physical model of interacting lattice bosons, we establish the existence of such an exotic critical point, called XY*. We measure a highly nonclassical critical exponent η = 1.493 and construct a universal scaling function of winding number distributions that directly demonstrates the distinct topological sectors of an emergent Z2 gauge field. The universal quantities used to establish this exotic transition can be used to detect other fractionalized quantum critical points in future model and material systems.

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