Saturday, November 14, 2009

Frustrated quantum spin models in a nutshell

Subir Sachdev has a Physics article which provides a background to recent work using tensor networks (inspired by quantum information theory) to find the ground state of quantum spin lattice models. I really like the following succinct summary of the problem:

The simplest of these problems involve only the spin operators Si of electrons residing on the sites, i, of a regular lattice. Each electron can have its spin oriented either up or down, leading to a Hilbert space of 2N states, on a lattice of N sites. On this space acts the Heisenberg Hamiltonian

H=i<j JijSiSj, (1)

where the Jij are a set of short-range exchange interactions, the strongest of which have Jij>0, i.e., are antiferromagnetic. We would like to map the ground-state phase diagram of H as a function of the Jij for a variety of lattices in the limit of N. Note that we are not interested in obtaining the exact wave function of the ground state: this is a hopeless task in dimensions greater than one. Rather, we would be satisfied in a qualitative characterization of each phase in the space of the Jij. Among the possible phases are

(i) a Néel phase, in which the spins have a definite orientation just as in the classical antiferromagnet, with the spin expectation values all parallel or antiparallel to each other;

(ii) a spiral antiferromagnet, which is magnetically ordered like the Néel phase, but the spins are not collinear;

(iii) a valence bond solid (VBS), with the spins paired into S=0 valence bonds, which then crystallize into a preferred arrangement that breaks the lattice symmetry; and

(iv) a spin liquid, with no broken symmetries, neutral S=1/2 elementary excitations, and varieties of a subtle “topological” order.

Specific examples occur for Heisenberg models on the (i) square lattice, (ii), triangular lattice, (iii) kagome lattice (probably).

An example of a model which contains all three is here.

We are still searching for an example of (iv).

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