Abstract
Quantum spin fluctuation in a lowdimensional or frustrated magnet breaks magnetic ordering while keeping spin correlation^{1}. Such fluctuation has been a central topic in magnetism because of its relevance to highT_{c} superconductivity^{2} and topological states^{3}. However, utilizing such spin states has been quite difficult. In a onedimensional spin1/2 chain, a particlelike excitation called a spinon is known to be responsible for spin fluctuation in a paramagnetic state. Spinons behave as a Tomonaga–Luttinger liquid at low energy, and the spin system is often called a quantum spin chain^{4}. Here we show that a quantum spin chain generates and carries spin current, which is attributed to spinon spin current. This is demonstrated by observing an anisotropic negative spin Seebeck effect^{5,6,7,8,9,10} along the spin chains in Sr_{2}CuO_{3}. The results show that spin current can flow even in an atomic channel owing to longrange spin fluctuation.
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Main
The flow of electron spins is defined as spin current. In condensed matter science, the transport properties of spin current have attracted considerable interest since the discovery of various spincurrent phenomena^{11,12}. However, in spintronics^{13}, finding materials that can carry spin angular momentum efficiently is of critical importance, especially for integrated microscopic devices.
So far, two types of spin current, conductionelectron spin current and spinwave spin current, have experimentally been explored. The former is mediated by the motion of electrons in metals and semiconductors. Thus, its velocity and propagation length are limited by electron spin diffusion. In the latter type^{14,15}, spin waves, wavelike propagation of spin motions in magnets, carry spin angular momentum. Its excitation gap is equal to a spinwave gap, proportional to the magnetic anisotropy. In addition, spinwave spin current can exist even in insulators in which spin relaxation via conduction electrons is absent. This is an advantage that may realize fast and longrange spincurrent transmission, opening a new field of insulatorbased spintronics. However, spinwave spin current in classical magnets may not be suitable for microscopic devices, since handling spin waves becomes difficult when devices are miniaturized toward atomic scale. In ferromagnets, spontaneous magnetization brings about significant stray fields, causing crosstalk. However, in antiferromagnetic systems, spin ordering patterns should be broken or interfered when a device is in atomic scale; in both these cases, spin waves become vulnerable. Therefore, to realize spincurrent transport in microscopic devices, spin ordering is expected to vanish while maintaining a strong interaction between spins.
Here, we would like to introduce a new type of spin current: spinon spin current, which may provide a channel for spin transmission based on quantum fluctuation without spin ordering. Spinons generally refer to magnetic elementary excitations in quantum spin liquids^{1}. When the system size of a magnet is reduced to atomic scale, quantum spin fluctuation manifests itself and dominates spin properties. The most typical example is found in onedimensional spin1/2 chains realized in some oxides, such as an insulator Sr_{2}CuO_{3} (refs 16,17,18). In Sr_{2}CuO_{3}, each Cu^{2+} ion carries spin1/2 and they are connected to each other linearly along the b axis, as shown in Fig. 1a. Because of the onedimensionality, the fluctuation of the spin1/2 is so strong that it prevents magnetic ordering. As a result, antiferromagnetic interaction embedded in the chain creates a paramagnetic state accompanied by strong spinsinglet correlation. Spin excitation from the correlated ground state has been predicted to be particlelike and to exhibit zero excitation gap, and this excitation is known as a spinon. This gapless feature is robust against external magnetic fields and magnetic anisotropy. Furthermore, theories have predicted that the correlation of spinons is of a markedly long length scale; even infinite correlation length is predicted in the context of the Tomonaga–Luttinger (TL) liquid theories^{4}. These indicate that in such a system spin current may propagate through a long distance via spinons.
To drive the spin current, one of the most versatile methods is to use a longitudinal spin Seebeck effect^{7,8,10} (LSSE). LSSE refers to the generation of spin current as a result of a temperature gradient applied across the junction between a magnet, typically a magnetic insulator, and a metal film, typically Pt. The temperature gradient injects spin current into the metal from the magnet. The injected spin current is converted into electric voltage via the inverse spin Hall effect^{19,20,21} (ISHE) in the metal. The voltage is generated perpendicular to the spin polarization and the propagation directions of the spin current. By measuring the voltage generated, the method enables sensitive detection of spin current. The amplitude of the injected spin current is proportional to the nonequilibrium accumulation of spin angular momentum at the interface in the magnet. In this study, we utilized the LSSE to extract spin current from a spinon system.
Spinoninduced LSSE is characterized by a distinguished feature: theory predicts that the sign of angular momentum due to a spinon LSSE is opposite to that of the conventional spinwaveinduced LSSE at low temperatures under magnetic fields. The opposite spin angular momentum is mainly due to the singlet correlation increasing with decreasing temperature in the present spinon system in contrast to ferromagnetic correlation growing in classical magnets. Detailed theoretical calculations using a microscopic model reproduce this intuition, which is described below. By exploiting these properties of LSSE, we observed spincurrent generation and transmission in Sr_{2}CuO_{3}, a typical paramagnetic insulator in which the spinon picture has well been established^{1}.
Figure 1b is a schematic illustration of the experimental setup used in this study. The sample consists of a single crystal of Sr_{2}CuO_{3} and a Pt thin film. The Pt film is used as a spincurrent detector based on ISHE, in which spin current is converted into an electromotive force, E_{SHE} (Fig. 1d). The spin chains in Sr_{2}CuO_{3} are set normal to the Pt film plane (Fig. 1c). A temperature gradient, ∇T, was generated along the spin chains by applying the temperature difference ΔT between the top of the Pt film and the bottom of Sr_{2}CuO_{3} (see also Fig. 1b). The voltage difference V is measured between the ends of the Pt film while applying an inplane field, B.
First, we measured the ΔTinduced voltage in a Pt film without Sr_{2}CuO_{3}. In this simple film, the voltage is produced via the normal Nernst effect of Pt alone^{22}. In Fig. 1e, we show the magnetic field B dependence of the voltage at several temperatures. The voltage (the voltage V divided by the temperature difference ΔT) was found to be proportional to B. In Fig. 1f, we show the temperature T dependence of the slope (that is, the Nernst coefficient of Pt). The sign of is positive for the entire range of T, showing that the sign of the normal Nernst effect of Pt is positive in the whole temperature range in the present setup.
The temperature dependence of for Pt changes dramatically when Sr_{2}CuO_{3} is attached to Pt. Figure 2a shows the T dependence of for Pt/Sr_{2}CuO_{3}. The sign of is positive around room temperature, the same sign as the normal Nernst effect in the simple Pt film. With decreasing T, surprisingly, the sign of reverses around 180 K and is negative below this temperature (see also Fig. 2c, d). In addition, another sign reversal takes place with decreasing T further and changes to positive below about 5 K, which is comparable to the Néel temperature of Sr_{2}CuO_{3} (ref. 16). These sign reversals show that the negative component appears by attaching the insulator Sr_{2}CuO_{3} and that it dominates at low temperatures, but disappears following the Néel ordering. The negative sign of cannot be explained by the normal Nernst effect of Pt, but it is the very feature of the aforementioned spinon LSSE. On the other hand, the sign of the LSSE voltage for Pt/conventional ferromagnets, ferrimagnets or antiferromagnets is the same as that of the normal Nernst effect of Pt in the present setup^{7,8,23}. The sign reversal around 180 K is attributed to a competition between such a negative component and the positive component due to the normal Nernst effect of Pt.
The sign reversal of was found to be related to spincurrent injection from Sr_{2}CuO_{3} as follows. In Fig. 3a, measured for W/Sr_{2}CuO_{3} is plotted as a function of T (red data points), where W exhibits negative ISHE; the sign of ISHE of W is opposite to that of Pt (ref. 24). In W/Sr_{2}CuO_{3}, is always positive and does not exhibit any sign reversal (see also Fig. 3c, d), and remarkably, a V/ΔT peak with positive sign appears around 20 K (pink arrow in Fig. 3a): the opposite peak sign to that of Pt/Sr_{2}CuO_{3} (blue arrow in Fig. 3a). The sign change between W and Pt shows that the lowtemperature V/ΔT signal is attributed mainly to ISHE due to spin current injected from Sr_{2}CuO_{3}. We note that the peak temperature ∼20 K is not the same as the temperature at which the spin thermal conductivity reaches its maximum (∼50 K for a highpurity Sr_{2}CuO_{3}; ref. 25); similar results were reported for conventional spin waves in ferrimagnet Y_{3}Fe_{5}O_{12} (refs 10,26).
In Fig. 3e, was compared between the ∇T ∥ baxis and the ∇T ⊥ baxis configurations. The b axis is the spinchain direction of Sr_{2}CuO_{3}, and thus in the ∇T ∥ baxis (∇T ⊥ baxis) configuration, the heat current flows parallel (normal) to the spin chains. Clearly, the negative peak observed in Pt/Sr_{2}CuO_{3} is suppressed when ∇T ⊥ b axis: the amplitude of at 20 K is one order of magnitude less than that in the ∇T ∥ baxis configuration (see also Fig. 3g, h). The suppression was confirmed also in W/Sr_{2}CuO_{3} (see the inset to Fig. 3e). The result shows that the spincurrent injection from Sr_{2}CuO_{3} takes place only when heat current is applied along the spin chain; the spin angular momentum flowing along the spin chains of Sr_{2}CuO_{3} dominates the spincurrent injection observed in the present study. The small negative signal of for the ∇T ⊥ b axis (Fig. 3e) might be attributed to an inevitable slight misalignment in the ∇T direction from the b axis (≤6°). We also note that the thermal conductivity and magnetic susceptibility of Sr_{2}CuO_{3} are almost isotropic along the a and b axes^{18}, and therefore, the voltage suppression cannot be attributed to a reduction in the magnitude of either ∇T or the fieldinduced magnetic moment. The negative and anisotropic LSSE is evidence that spin current is generated and conveyed by spinons through the spin chains of Sr_{2}CuO_{3}. Although seemingly similar results were reported for several threedimensional materials, or Gd_{3}Fe_{5}O_{12} and DyScO_{3}, the origins are completely different from that of the spinon LSSE. The negative sign of LSSE observed in the ferrimagnet Gd_{3}Fe_{5}O_{12} is attributed to competition in the spin injection between the different ordered magnetic ions^{27}; in contrast, the magnetic ions of Sr_{2}CuO_{3} are Cu^{2+} alone along with spin fluctuation down to ∼5 K. Additionally, the anisotropic LSSE in a paramagnetic state of the antiferromagnet DyScO_{3} is due simply to the strong anisotropy of the magnetic susceptibility while an origin of the negative sign remains to be elucidated^{22}.
Finally, we turn to a theoretical formulation of the spinon LSSE in the present system. On the basis of a microscopic theory for LSSE^{28} (see Supplementary Sections A and B), the spin current I_{s} injected from a magnet to a metal is given by
where ω is the angular frequency, δT is the temperature difference between the magnet and the metal, T is the mean value of the two temperatures, and A is a materialdependent factor (see Supplementary Section B). X^{−+} and χ^{−+} denote dynamical spin susceptibilities of the magnet and the metal, respectively. This formula can be applied to various magnetic phases (either magnetically ordered or disordered). We note that phenomenological transport theories for LSSE^{9} have also been developed and applied to ordered magnets, and in the formula (1), spinon coherent dynamics with a long mean free path is taken into account via the susceptibility X^{−+}(ω). In lowdimensional transport phenomena such as the present spinchain LSSE, an effect of disorder^{29} is generally relevant in the lowenergy limit, while LSSE is a phenomenon driven by a finite temperature and large thermal conduction carried by spinons was observed in Sr_{2}CuO_{3} (refs 17,18). These allow us to omit disorder effects within the framework of practical approximation.
Since the metal susceptibility χ^{−+} is well described by a diffusion type function proportional to ω (ref. 28), computation of X^{−+} is the remaining task to obtain the accurate spin current. The lowenergy physics with strong singlet correlation of a spin1/2 AF chain is captured by the TL liquid theory^{4}. In the lowenergy region, it enables us to calculate X^{−+} without any fitting parameters. However, the computed susceptibility is an odd function of ω even at finite B because of the linearized spinon dispersion. As a result, the linearized standard TL liquid theory leads to zero spin current. To obtain the accurate value of spin current, we consider the actual spinon dispersion beyond the linear approximation. In fact, the spinon dispersion is known to be curved at finite frequencies^{30} and LSSE is driven by finitefrequency spinons. Combining the curved dispersion with the TL liquid theory, we obtain a finite spin current, shown in Fig. 4. In Fig. 4, we also show a result for a ferromagnetic LSSE obtained by calculating the spin current I_{s} for a threedimensional ferromagnet (see Supplementary Section C). The spinon I_{s} is found to be Blinear and the linearity continues up to very high fields (∼100 T) owing to the robust gapless excitation of spinons with the large exchange coupling (∼2,000 K); consistent with our experimental results (see also the inset to Fig. 2d, confirming the Blinearity up to 9 T). Most importantly, the sign of the spinon I_{s} is opposite to that of the spinwave I_{s}, which captures the marked feature observed experimentally. This sign difference is attributed to whether the dominant weight of ImX^{−+}(ω) is located in the positive or negative ω region (see Supplementary Sections B–D). Since the weight of ImX^{−+}(ω) in the positive (negative) ω region corresponds to downspin (upspin) carriers, the sign difference is due to the opposite spin polarization carried by net spin carriers.
Methods
Sample preparation.
The singlecrystalline Sr_{2}CuO_{3} was grown from primary compounds SrCO_{3} and CuO with 99.999% by a travellingsolvent floatingzone method^{18}. The singlecrystalline Sr_{2}CuO_{3} was cut into a cuboid 5 mm long, 1 mm wide and 1 mm thick. The surface of the Sr_{2}CuO_{3} was polished mechanically in a glove box filled with N_{2} gas. We found that exposure of the sample to air causes deterioration of the sample, since the surface of Sr_{2}CuO_{3} reacts rapidly with moisture^{25}. The 7nmthick Pt film was then sputtered on the polished surface (5 × 1 mm^{2}) of the Sr_{2}CuO_{3} in an Ar atmosphere.
Voltage measurement.
Voltage data were taken in a Physical Properties Measurement System (Quantum Design). The Pt (W)/Sr_{2}CuO_{3} sample was sandwiched by sapphire plates and the bottom of the sample was thermally anchored at the system temperature T. The temperature gradient ∇T was generated by applying a charge current to a chip resistor (100 Ω) on the sapphire plate attached to the metal film. The temperature difference ΔT between the sapphire plates was set to be ΔT/T < 0.1 at each system temperature T. Two electrodes were attached to both the ends of the metal film to measure the voltage. An external magnetic field was applied normal to the direction of ∇T as well as the direction across the two electrodes.
Data availability.
The data that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding authors on request.
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Acknowledgements
We thank Y. Ohnuma, N. Yokoi and K. Sato for valuable discussions. This work is supported by ERATOJST ‘Spin Quantum Rectification Project’, Japan, GrantinAid for Scientific Research on Innovative Area ‘Nano Spin Conversion Science’ (No. 26103005), PRESTO ‘Phase Interfaces for Highly Efficient Energy Utilization’ from JST, Japan, GrantinAid for Challenging Exploratory Research (No. 16K13827), and GrantinAid for Scientific Research (A) (No. 15H02012) from MEXT, Japan. D.H. is supported by the Yoshida Scholarship Foundation through the Doctor 21 programme.
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D.H. and E.S. designed the experiments; T.K. grew single crystals used in the study; D.H. collected and analysed the data; K.i.U. and R.I. supported the experiments; M.S. developed the theoretical explanations; S.M., Y.K. and E.S. supervised the study; D.H., M.S., Y.S. and E.S. wrote the manuscript. All authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.
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Hirobe, D., Sato, M., Kawamata, T. et al. Onedimensional spinon spin currents. Nature Phys 13, 30–34 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/nphys3895
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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/nphys3895
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