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Published May 15, 2009 | Published
Journal Article Open

Spin Bose-metal phase in a spin-1/2 model with ring exchange on a two-leg triangular strip


Recent experiments on triangular lattice organic Mott insulators have found evidence for a two-dimensional (2D) spin liquid in close proximity to the metal-insulator transition. A Gutzwiller wave function study of the triangular lattice Heisenberg model with a four-spin ring exchange term appropriate in this regime has found that the projected spinon Fermi sea state has a low variational energy. This wave function, together with a slave particle-gauge theory analysis, suggests that this putative spin liquid possesses spin correlations that are singular along surfaces in momentum space, i.e., "Bose surfaces." Signatures of this state, which we will refer to as a "spin Bose metal" (SBM), are expected to manifest in quasi-one-dimensional (quasi-1D) ladder systems: the discrete transverse momenta cut through the 2D Bose surface leading to a distinct pattern of 1D gapless modes. Here, we search for a quasi-1D descendant of the triangular lattice SBM state by exploring the Heisenberg plus ring model on a two-leg triangular strip (zigzag chain). Using density matrix renormalization group (DMRG) supplemented by variational wave functions and a bosonization analysis, we map out the full phase diagram. In the absence of ring exchange the model is equivalent to the J_1-J_2 Heisenberg chain, and we find the expected Bethe-chain and dimerized phases. Remarkably, moderate ring exchange reveals a new gapless phase over a large swath of the phase diagram. Spin and dimer correlations possess singular wave vectors at particular "Bose points" (remnants of the 2D Bose surface) and allow us to identify this phase as the hoped for quasi-1D descendant of the triangular lattice SBM state. We use bosonization to derive a low-energy effective theory for the zigzag spin Bose metal and find three gapless modes and one Luttinger parameter controlling all power law correlations. Potential instabilities out of the zigzag SBM give rise to other interesting phases such as a period-3 valence bond solid or a period-4 chirality order, which we discover in the DMRG. Another interesting instability is into a spin Bose-metal phase with partial ferromagnetism (spin polarization of one spinon band), which we also find numerically using the DMRG.

Additional Information

© 2009 The American Physical Society. Received 4 March 2009; published 20 May 2009. We would like to thank L. Balents, H.-H. Lai, T. Senthil, and S. Trebst for useful discussions. This work was supported by DOE under Grant No. DE-FG02-06ER46305 (D.N.S.), the National Science Foundation through Grants No. DMR-0605696 (D.N.S.) and No. DMR-0529399 (M.P.A.F.), and the A. P. Sloan Foundation (O.I.M.). D.N.S. also thanks the KITP for support through NSF under Grant No. PHY05-51164.

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