Molecular and Materials Science

A new, tunable quantum spin liquid offers next-generation technology promise

A new, tunable quantum spin liquid offers next-generation technology promise: Research at CMMS has demonstrated that it's possible to tweak a magnetic materials' overall electron structure in a new way to create novel states that could have numerous technological applications, including for improved magnetic information storage. As reported in Physical Review Letters (2018), using TRIUMF's µSR probe it was discovered that a material's magnetic ground state can be tuned by changing its charge order. A quantum spin liquid (QSL) is a strange ground state of a magnetic material with long-range entanglement and emergent excitations. The usual ingredients required to make a QSL are small spins and competing interactions that create geometric frustration. CMMS added an additional ingredient to generate QSL physics: charge order. The materials Li2In1-xScxMo3O8 have an asymmetric lattice and the electrons are dilute, with only a third of the sites occupied. As the ratio of scandium (Sc) to indium (In) atoms in the material is altered, the lattice becomes more symmetric and the electrons form a particular “plaquette” charge order which generates more frustration and induces a new, tunable QSL ground state.