Natural quantum materials

Synthesis of novel single crystal quantum materials often requires extreme conditions (i.e. extremely high pressure and/or temperature). On top of that, the quality of the finite single crystal usually improves significantly with the time these extreme conditions are kept during the synthesis. Hence, the synthesis of quantum materials in the lab obviously faces technical limitations. To avoid these obstacles one can instead turn towards searching for quantum materials among natural minerals. Conditions present in some parts of Earth’s crust surpass the possibilities of any crystal growth laboratory in the world and geological timescales are unprecedented.

Recent searches for natural minerals with particular sublattices of magnetic ions, preferred for exhibiting quantum magnetism [1], and natural materials with quasicrystal structures [2], proved to be fruitful venues of research. These recent successes point toward almost completely not explored area of metallic minerals in quest for natural systems hosting exotic electronic properties like non-Fermi-liquid behavior (due to presence of e.g. heavy fermions, or appearance of Kondo insulator phase), exotic topological quasiparticles (i.e. Weyl and Dirac fermions and beyond) or unconventional superconductivity. In particular, the quasicrystals, as a 3D analogue to twisted bilayer graphene [3] are extremely interesting.

The project would commence with survey of mineral databases in search for metallic minerals having promising chemical composition (e.g. presence of transition metals, or f-electrons), or structural properties (e.g. low-dimensional substructures, or a quasicrystal structure). The acquired samples of selected species would be then characterized by means of transport (i.e. electronic, thermal, ultrasonic), thermoelectric and thermodynamic measurements in magnetic fields, aimed at exploring uncommon areas of topological and correlated physics.

References

[1] D.S. Inosov
Quantum magnetism in minerals
Advances in Physics 67 (3), 149-252 (2018)
[2] L. Bindi, P.J. Steinhardt, N. Yao, and P.J. Lu
Natural quasicrystals
Science 324 (5932),1306–1309 (2009)
[3] Y. Cao, V. Fatemi, S. Fang, K. Watanabe, T. Taniguchi, E. Kaxiras, and P. Jarillo-Herrero
Unconventional superconductivity in magic-angle graphene superlattices
Nature 556, 43–50 (2018)

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