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Electronic liquid-crystal phases of a doped Mott insulator


The character of the ground state of an antiferromagnetic insulator is fundamentally altered following addition of even a small amount of charge1. The added charge is concentrated into domain walls across which a π phase shift in the spin correlations of the host material is induced. In two dimensions, these domain walls are ‘stripes’ which can be insulating2,3 or conducting4,5,6 — that is, metallic ‘rivers’ with their own low-energy degrees of freedom. However, in arrays of one-dimensional metals, which occur in materials such as organic conductors7, interactions between stripes typically drive a transition to an insulating ordered charge-density-wave (CDW) state at low temperatures. Here it is shown that such a transition is eliminated if the zero-point energy of transverse stripe fluctuations is sufficiently large compared tothe CDW coupling between stripes. As a consequence, there should exist electronic quantum liquid-crystal phases, which constitute new states of matter, and which can be either high-temperature superconductors or two-dimensional anisotropic ‘metallic’ non-Fermi liquids. Neutron scattering and other experiments in the copper oxide superconductor La1.6−xNd0.4SrxCuO4 already provide evidence for the existence of these phases in at least one class of materials.

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Figure 1: Schematic representation of a smectic stripe phase.
Figure 2: Phase diagram for Kc > 1/2.
Figure 3: Schematic view of the local stripe order in the various phases discussed in the text.

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We thank J. Tranquada for discussions and V. Pokrovskii for comments. This work was supported in part by the NSF at UCLA, UIUC and ITP-UCSB; and in part by the Division of Materials Science, US DOE, at Brookhaven. Two of us (E.F. and S.K.) were participants at the ITP Program on Quantum Field Theory in Low Dimensions.

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Correspondence to V. J. Emery.

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Kivelson, S., Fradkin, E. & Emery, V. Electronic liquid-crystal phases of a doped Mott insulator. Nature 393, 550–553 (1998).

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