Observation of spin and charge collective modes in one-dimensional metallic chains

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The many-body theory of interacting electrons in solids establishes the existence of elementary excitations, named quasi-particles, which show a one-to-one correspondence with non-interacting electrons. But this so-called Fermi liquid approach breaks down spectacularly in one-dimensional metals1. In this situation, which is described by the Luttinger liquid formalism, the quasiparticles are replaced by distinct collective excitations involving spin and charge, called spinons and holons, respectively2. This approach predicts power-law behaviour for the various properties of one-dimensional metals which is experimentally testable using a wide variety of methods, such as transport measurements3,4 and optical conductivity measurements5. Photoemission, on the other hand, provides a means by which the spin and charge excitations can be observed directly. Previous photoemission studies of quasi-one-dimensional metals have essentially revealed only the absence of any discontinuity of the spectral function at the Fermi energy6, consistent with theoretical expectations. Recently, signatures of the existence of spin-charge separation have been inferred from line-shape analyses in a metal with different bands7 and in an insulator8. Here we present photoemission data from a genuine one-dimensional metal constructed on an insulating substrate. The spectra contain structures indicative of the excitation of spin and charge collective modes.

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Figure 1: Surface crystallography of the system.
Figure 2: Dispersion of the Au-induced state parallel to the chains.
Figure 3: Angle-resolved photoemission spectra with varying surface wave vector k perpendicular to the chains.
Figure 4: Detailed angle-resolved photoemission spectra of Si(111)5 × 1Au for θe between -6° and -18°.


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We thank H. Beck and R. Frésard for discussions. This work was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

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Correspondence to P. Segovia.

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Segovia, P., Purdie, D., Hengsberger, M. et al. Observation of spin and charge collective modes in one-dimensional metallic chains. Nature 402, 504–507 (1999) doi:10.1038/990052

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