In common with other iron-based high-temperature superconductors, FeSe exhibits a transition to a ‘nematic’ phase below 90 K in which the crystal rotation symmetry is spontaneously broken. However, the absence of strong low-frequency magnetic fluctuations near or above the transition has been interpreted as implying the primacy of orbital ordering. In contrast, we establish that quantum fluctuations of spin-1 local moments with strongly frustrated exchange interactions can lead to a nematic quantum paramagnetic phase consistent with the observations in FeSe. We show that this phase is a fundamental expression of the existence of a Berry’s phase associated with the topological defects of a Néel antiferromagnet, in a manner analogous to that which gives rise to valence bond crystal order for spin-1/2 systems. We present an exactly solvable model realizing the nematic quantum paramagnetic phase, discuss its relation with the spin-1 J1–J2 model, and construct a field theory of the Landau-forbidden transition between the Néel state and this nematic quantum paramagnet.
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We thank H. Jiang and T. Xiang for useful discussions. F.W. was supported by the National Key Basic Research Program of China (Grant No. 2014CB920902) and the National Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 11374018). S.A.K. was supported in part by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences, Materials Sciences and Engineering Division, grant DE-AC02-76SF00515 at Stanford. D.-H.L. was supported by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences, Materials Sciences and Engineering Division, grant DE-AC02-05CH11231. D.-H.L. and S.A.K. would like to thank KITP for hospitality, supported in part by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. NSF PHY11-25915, where the collaboration started.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Wang, F., Kivelson, S. & Lee, DH. Nematicity and quantum paramagnetism in FeSe. Nature Phys 11, 959–963 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nphys3456
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