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Phys Rev Lett. 2015 Apr 10;114(14):147201. Epub 2015 Apr 6.

Scattering continuum and possible fractionalized excitations in α-RuCl(3).

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Department of Physics, University of Toronto, 60 St. George St., Toronto, Ontario M5S 1A7, Canada.
Department of Physics, Boston College, 140 Commonwealth Avenue, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts 02467, USA.


The combination of electronic correlation and spin-orbit coupling is thought to precipitate a variety of highly unusual electronic phases in solids, including topological and quantum spin liquid states. We report a Raman scattering study that provides evidence for unconventional excitations in α-RuCl_{3}, a spin-orbit coupled Mott insulator on the honeycomb lattice. In particular, our measurements reveal unusual magnetic scattering, typified by a broad continuum. The temperature dependence of this continuum is evident over a large scale compared to the magnetic ordering temperature, suggestive of frustrated magnetic interactions. This is confirmed through an analysis of the phonon linewidths, which show a related anomaly due to spin-phonon coupling. These observations are in line with theoretical expectations for the Heisenberg-Kitaev model and suggest that α-RuCl_{3} may be close to a quantum spin liquid ground state.

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