Probing electronic liquid crystals with vector magnetic fields

The formation of textured liquid crystal-like states in interacting electron fluids is fast becoming a key topic in condensed matter physics, especially due to a series of observations that show it occurring in the vicinity of high temperature superconductivity.  However, it is surprisingly difficult to observe and to isolate as a phenomenon.  In fact, 'pure' transitions have never been observed.  Instead, what is seen is the development of an extremely high susceptibility to the formation of anisotropic states, with the observation of a global anisotropy only possible in the presence of a symmetry-breaking field.  In many systems, this field comes from an intrinsic lattice anisotropy, which has not proved easy to control.  However, magnetic field can sometimes be used to train the electronic anisotropy, opening the way to in-depth investigation. The goal of this project will be to combine unique vector field capabilities at MPI-CPfS and at the University of St Andrews with bespoke apparatus for thermodynamic, transport and strain measurements, to gain new insights into this exciting and unexpected phenomenon. 

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