Quantum jamming transition to a correlated electron glass in 1T-TaS2

Abstract

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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Fig. 1: Structure, experiment and basic observation by STM of the initial and final states of polarons after excitation by a single laser pulse.
Fig. 2: Distances in between polarons and atoms.
Fig. 3: Electronic properties from tunnelling spectroscopy and transport measurements.
Fig. 4: Tiling patterns formed by polarons in the A state, comparing experiment (a,c) and theory (b,d).

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

Code availability

Code used for the Monte Carlo simulations is available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

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.

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I.V. made the original discovery, and D.M. and Y.A.G. led the project, wrote the paper and performed the analysis. Y.A.G., M.L. and I.V. performed STM measurements, Y.A.G., M.D. and J.R. did the multitip measurements. J.V. and V.K. performed theoretical calculations. All the authors contributed to the Supplementary Information.

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Correspondence to Yaroslav A. Gerasimenko or Dragan Mihailovic.

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Supplementary Notes 1–8, Supplementary Figs. 1–18 and Supplementary Refs. 1–29.

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Gerasimenko, Y.A., Vaskivskyi, I., Litskevich, M. et al. Quantum jamming transition to a correlated electron glass in 1T-TaS2. Nat. Mater. 18, 1078–1083 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41563-019-0423-3

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