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Spin liquids in frustrated magnets


Frustrated magnets are materials in which localized magnetic moments, or spins, interact through competing exchange interactions that cannot be simultaneously satisfied, giving rise to a large degeneracy of the system ground state. Under certain conditions, this can lead to the formation of fluid-like states of matter, so-called spin liquids, in which the constituent spins are highly correlated but still fluctuate strongly down to a temperature of absolute zero. The fluctuations of the spins in a spin liquid can be classical or quantum and show remarkable collective phenomena such as emergent gauge fields and fractional particle excitations. This exotic behaviour is now being uncovered in the laboratory, providing insight into the properties of spin liquids and challenges to the theoretical description of these materials.

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Figure 1: Frustrated magnetism on 2D and 3D lattices.
Figure 2: Spins, artificial magnetic fields and monopoles in spin ice.
Figure 3: Valence-bond states of frustrated antiferromagnets.
Figure 4: Excitations of quantum antiferromagnets.
Figure 5: Spin–orbital quantum criticality.


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I am grateful to countless friends and collaborators, especially O. Starykh and M. Fisher for many stimulating interactions. I would also like to thank R. Coldea, H. Takagi, A. Loidl and P. Mendels for sharing their insights into experiments on frustrated magnets. My research is supported by the US National Science Foundation, the US Department of Energy, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the US Army Research Office.

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Balents, L. Spin liquids in frustrated magnets. Nature 464, 199–208 (2010).

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