Quantum criticality with two length scales

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Science  08 Apr 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6282, pp. 213-216
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad5007

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Describing an exotic magnetic transition

Phase transitions can be caused by temperature fluctuations or, more exotically, by quantum fluctuations at zero temperature. To describe some of these quantum phase transitions, researchers came up with a complex theory called deconfined quantum criticality.

However, subsequent numerical simulations were inconsistent with some of the predictions of the theory, leading to a debate on its validity. By using quantum Monte Carlo simulations, Shao et al. show that it is possible to reconcile numerics with the theory for a specific model of 2D quantum magnetism.

Science, this issue p. 213


The theory of deconfined quantum critical (DQC) points describes phase transitions at absolute temperature T = 0 outside the standard paradigm, predicting continuous transformations between certain ordered states where conventional theory would require discontinuities. Numerous computer simulations have offered no proof of such transitions, instead finding deviations from expected scaling relations that neither were predicted by the DQC theory nor conform to standard scenarios. Here we show that this enigma can be resolved by introducing a critical scaling form with two divergent length scales. Simulations of a quantum magnet with antiferromagnetic and dimerized ground states confirm the form, proving a continuous transition with deconfined excitations and also explaining anomalous scaling at T > 0. Our findings revise prevailing paradigms for quantum criticality, with potential implications for many strongly correlated materials.

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