Monday, July 22, 2013

1307.5131 (Andrew Smerald et al.)

Waves in the unseen : theory of spin excitations in a quantum spin

Andrew Smerald, Nic Shannon
The idea that a quantum magnet could act like a liquid crystal, breaking spin-rotation symmetry without breaking time-reversal symmetry, holds an abiding fascination. However, the very fact that spin nematic states do not break time-reversal symmetry renders them "invisible" to the most common probes of magnetism - they do not exhibit magnetic Bragg peaks, a static splitting of lines in NMR spectra, or oscillations in muSR. Nonetheless, as a consequence of breaking spin-rotation symmetry, spin-nematic states do possess a characteristic spectrum of dispersing excitations which could be observed in experiment. With this in mind, we develop a symmetry-based description of long-wavelength excitations in a spin-nematic state, based on an SU(3) generalisation of the quantum non-linear sigma model. We use this field theory to make explicit predictions for inelastic neutron scattering, and argue that the wave-like excitations it predicts could be used to identify the symmetries broken by the otherwise unseen spin-nematic order.
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