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Phys Rev Lett. 2008 Dec 31;101(26):266404.

Signature of quantum criticality in photoemission spectroscopy.

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Universitüt Würzburg, Experimentelle Physik II, Am Hubland, D-97074 Würzburg, Germany.


A quantum phase transition in a heavy-fermion compound may destroy the Fermi-liquid ground state. However, the conditions for this breakdown have remained obscure. We report the first direct investigation of heavy quasiparticle formation and breakdown in the canonical system CeCu(6-x)Au(x) by ultraviolet photoemission spectroscopy at elevated temperatures without the complications of lattice coherence. Surprisingly, the single-ion Kondo energy scale T(K) exhibits an abrupt step near the quantum critical Au concentration of x(c) = 0.1. We show theoretically that this step is expected from a highly nonlinear renormalization of the local spin coupling at each Ce site, induced by spin fluctuations on neighboring sites. It provides a general high-temperature indicator for heavy-fermion quasiparticle breakdown at a quantum phase transition.

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