Interacting conduction electrons are usually described within Fermi-liquid theory1, which states that, in spite of strong interactions, the low-energy excitations are electron-like quasiparticles with charge and spin. In recent years there has been tremendous interest in conducting systems that are not Fermi liquids, motivated by the observation of highly anomalous metallic states in various materials, most notably the copper oxide superconductors2,3. Non-Fermi-liquid behaviour is generic to one-dimensional interacting electron systems, which are predicted to be Luttinger liquids4,5. One of their key properties is spin–charge separation: instead of quasiparticles, collective excitations of charge (with no spin) and spin (with no charge) are formed, which move independently and at different velocities. However, experimental confirmation of spin–charge separation remains a challenge. Here we report experiments probing the charge and heat current in quasi-one-dimensional conductors—the organic Bechgaard salts6,7,8,9,10. It was found that the charge and spin excitations have distinctly different thermal conductivities, which gives strong evidence for spin–charge separation. The spin excitations have a much larger thermal conductivity than the charge excitations, which indicates that the coupling of the charge excitations to the lattice is important.
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We thank M. Braden, C. Hess, J. Jérome, A.P. Kampf, D.I. Khomskii, E. Müller-Hartmann, H.R. Ott and G.A. Sawatzky for discussions. This work was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and by the VolkswagenStiftung.
The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.
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Lorenz, T., Hofmann, M., Grüninger, M. et al. Evidence for spin–charge separation in quasi-one-dimensional organic conductors. Nature 418, 614–617 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature00913
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