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Spin-Orbit Coupled Quantum Magnetism in the 3D-Honeycomb Iridates


In this doctoral dissertation, we consider the significance of spin-orbit coupling for the phases of matter which arise for strongly correlated electrons. We explore emergent behavior in quantum many-body systems, including symmetry-breaking orders, quantum spin liquids, and unconventional superconductivity. Our study is cemented by a particular class of Mott-insulating materials, centered around a family of two- and three-dimensional iridium oxides, whose honeycomb-like lattice structure admits peculiar magnetic interactions, the so-called Kitaev exchange. By analyzing recent experiments on these compounds, we show that this unconventional exchange is the key ingredient in describing their magnetism, and then use a combination of numerical and analytical techniques to investigate the implications for the phase diagram as well as the physics of the proximate three-dimensional quantum spin liquid phases. These long-ranged-entangled fractionalized phases should exhibit special features, including finite-temperature stability as well as unconventional high-Tc superconductivity upon charge-doping, which should aid future experimental searches for spin liquid physics. Our study explores the nature of frustration and fractionalization which can arise in quantum systems in the presence of strong spin-orbit coupling.

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