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Initiative-II Highlight

Figure shows the single crystal used in this study and the resultant crystal structure that further supports the possibility of quantum spin liquids.

Peering into a crystal to defend a quantum magnet

Authors: Y. Lee (MIT) and D. Nocera (MIT)

The quest for new states of matter with properties that may someday provide solutions to technological problems such as the realization of higher temperature superconductors continues with great haste. For many years, theorists have predicted a new state of matter called the ?quantum spin liquid? to exist in materials in which electrons are contained in corner sharing triangles. Debates about the existence of such quantum spin liquids remained unresolved, partly due to the lack of availability of high quality, single crystal materials. Lee and Nocera have now developed procedures for growing single crystal samples of the mineral herbertsmithite; a material comprised of corner sharing triangles. Detailed anomalous x-ray scattering studies of these crystals have ruled out the existence of a specific type of disorder that was believed to prevent the formation of a spin liquid. This work restores the reputation of herbertsmithite as a model system for seeking the quantum spin liquid and moves one step closer to proving the existence of such a new state of matter.

D.E. Freedman, T.H. Han, A. Prodi, P. Mueller, Q.-Z. Huang, Y.-S. Chen, S.M. Webb, Y.S. Lee, T.M. McQueen, and D.G. Nocera, ?Site Specific X-ray Anomalous Dispersion of the Geometrically Frustrated Kagomé Magnet, Herbertsmithite, ZnCu3(OH)6Cl2,? J. Am. Chem. Soc. 132, 16185-90 (2010).

This work was supported primarily by the MRSEC Program of the National Science Foundation under award number DMR-0819762.

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