Distinct many-body states may be created under non-equilibrium conditions through different ordering paths, even when their constituents are subjected to the same fundamental interactions. The phase-transition mechanism to such states remains poorly understood. Here, we show that controlled optical or electromagnetic perturbations can lead to an amorphous metastable state of strongly correlated electrons in a quasi-two-dimensional dichalcogenide. Scanning tunnelling microscopy reveals a hyperuniform pattern of localized charges, whereas multitip surface nanoscale conductivity measurements and tunnelling spectroscopy show an electronically gapless conducting state that is different from conventional Coulomb glasses and many-body localized systems. The state is stable up to room temperature and shows no signs of either local charge order or phase separation. The mechanism for its formation is attributed to a dynamical localization of electrons through mutual interactions. Theoretical calculations confirm the correlations between localized charges to be crucial for the state’s unusual stability.
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The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.
Code used for the Monte Carlo simulations is available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.
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We thank T. Prosen, J. Bonča, P. Prelovšek, R. Žitko, T. Mertelj, S. Brazovskii, V. Dobrosavljevic, N. Gedik and P. Karpov for useful discussions, J. Mravlje for band structure data and P. Sutar for the synthesis and characterization of the samples. Funding from ERC-2012-ADG-20120216 ‘Trajectory’ is acknowledged.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Supplementary Notes 1–8, Supplementary Figs. 1–18 and Supplementary Refs. 1–29.