Friday, April 27, 2018

Relating frustrated spin models and flat bands in tight-binding models

What kind of theory paper to I enjoy?
Here are some personal tastes
- "simple" enough I can understand it
- physical insight
- some analytical results
- some pretty pictures that illuminate

This week I read the following paper which I consider nicely meets these criteria.

Band touching from real-space topology in frustrated hopping models
Doron L. Bergman, Congjun Wu, and Leon Balents

The quantum spin antiferromagnetic Heisenberg model on the kagome lattice attracts a lot of attention because it may have a spin liquid ground state, for spin-1/2 and spin 1. This is arguably driven by the large spin frustration. A reflection of this frustration is that the classical model has a non-zero entropy at zero temperature due to a manifold of degenerate states. For this reason, the kagome lattice is sometimes said to be "maximally frustrated". This is in contrast to the triangular lattice for which their is a unique classical ground state and the spin-1/2 model exhibits long-range order.

The kagome lattice is also of interest because of the band structure for the tight-binding model has a flat band, i.e. it is dispersionless. This means that in the presence of interactions the electrons in this band may be strongly correlated and susceptible to instability to new states of matter.

The question arises as to whether there is any connection between these two properties of models on a particular "frustrated" lattice: flat bands and a manifold of degenerate classical ground states.

The purpose of this paper is to show that for a whole class of lattices, in two and three dimensions, that there is an close relationship between these properties.
It turns out that a key feature is that the flat bands touch a dispersive band at one point in k-space.

My interest was stimulated by the work of some of my UQ colleagues on a class of organometallic compounds that exhibit a kagomene lattice (that interpolates between kagome and honeycomb (graphene). The associated band structure (taken from this paper) is shown below.

The abstract states:
We demonstrate that this band touching is related to states which exhibit nontrivial topology in real-space. Specifically, these states have support [i.e. non-zero values] on one-dimensional loops which wind around the entire system 􏰀with periodic boundary conditions􏰁. A counting argument is given that determines, in each case, whether there is band touching or none, in precise correspondence to the result of straightforward diagonalization. When they are present, the topological structure protects the band touchings in the sense that they can only be removed by perturbations, which also split the degeneracy of the flat band.
I know illustrate this with the kagome lattice.

It has a three site basis (mu=1,2,3) and so there are three bands. If q is the Bloch wave vector, the Bloch states for the flat band can be written

One of these plaquette states is shown on the left below. 
A key point is that there is constructive interference between these plaquette states. Thus, one can take superpositions of them. On the right is the superposition of three neighbouring plaquette states.

A whole line of plaquette states can lead to visualising something with nontrivial topology.

The authors then show how similar physics occurs in other two- and three-dimensional lattice models. The one below is the dice lattice.
Finally, they show that the corresponding Hubbard model leads to a Heisenberg model in the classical limit does have macroscopic degeneracy.

I thank Ben Powell for bringing the paper to my attention.

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