Thursday, July 4, 2013

1307.1066 (H. Pfau et al.)

Thermal and Electrical Transport across a Magnetic Quantum Critical

H. Pfau, S. Hartmann, U. Stockert, P. Sun, S. Lausberg, M. Brando, S. Friedemann, C. Krellner, C. Geibel, S. Wirth, S. Kirchner, E. Abrahams, Q. Si, F. Steglich
A quantum critical point (QCP) arises at a continuous transition between competing phases at zero temperature. Collective excitations at magnetic QCPs give rise to metallic properties that strongly deviate from the expectations of Landau's Fermi liquid description, the standard theory of electron correlations in metals. Central to this theory is the notion of quasiparticles, electronic excitations which possess the quantum numbers of the bare electrons. Here we report measurements of thermal and electrical transport across the field-induced magnetic QCP in the heavy-fermion compound YbRh$_2$Si$_2$. We show that the ratio of the thermal to electrical conductivities at the zero-temperature limit obeys the Wiedemann-Franz (WF) law above the critical field, $B_c$. This is also expected at $B < B_c$, where weak antiferromagnetic order and a Fermi liquid phase form below 0.07 K ($B = 0$). However, at the critical field the low-temperature electrical conductivity suggests a non-Fermi-liquid ground state and exceeds the thermal conductivity by about 10%. This apparent violation of the WF law provides evidence for an unconventional type of QCP at which the fundamental concept of Landau quasiparticles breaks down. These results imply that Landau quasiparticles break up, and that the origin of this disintegration is inelastic scattering associated with electronic quantum critical fluctuations. Our finding brings new insights into understanding deviations from Fermi-liquid behaviour frequently observed in various classes of correlated materials.
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