Focus

Quantum phase transitions

Phase transitions are familiar occurrences, such as the freezing of water to ice. When the transition occurs at zero temperature, it is known as a 'quantum phase transition'. As distinct states of matter coexist at a transition, there are quantum fluctuations between them. This Focus explores the resulting – and often surprising – collective behaviour.

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Editorial

Transitions in focus pp157

doi:10.1038/nphys898


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Perspectives

Fishing the Fermi sea pp167 - 169

Paul C. Canfield

doi:10.1038/nphys908

Sophocles had it right, the Rolling Stones made a friendly amendment and Linus Pauling detailed the conceptual mechanism for finding novel materials that will define and revolutionize the future.

What lies beneath the dome? pp170 - 172

D. M. Broun

doi:10.1038/nphys909

Numerous experiments on cuprate materials suggest that a zero-temperature phase transition is hidden beneath the superconducting dome. Is it the key to understanding high-temperature superconductivity, and can it explain the anomalous normal state properties?


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Reviews

Quantum magnetism and criticality pp173 - 185

Subir Sachdev

doi:10.1038/nphys894

Quantum magnetism describes systems of magnetic spins in which quantum mechanical effects dominate, often in surprising ways. This review article covers phase transitions between these states, including quantum criticality and entangled electron states.

Quantum criticality in heavy-fermion metals  pp186 - 197

Philipp Gegenwart, Qimiao Si & Frank Steglich

doi:10.1038/nphys892

At a zero-temperature phase transition from one ordered state to another, fluctuations between the two states lead to quantum critical behaviour that can lead to unexpected physics. Metals with 'heavy' electrons often harbour such weird states.

Bose´┐ŻEinstein condensation in magnetic insulators pp198 - 204

Thierry Giamarchi, Christian Rüegg & Oleg Tchernyshyov

doi:10.1038/nphys893

A collection of bosonic particles, such as liquid helium or ultracold gases, can condense into a ground state in which the atoms flow as a 'superfluid' without scattering. Magnetic materials further illustrate the generality of the effect, as described in this review.


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