Structure of spin liquids under uniaxial pressure
Quantum spin liquids are fascinating states of matter in which competing interactions between the spins prevent static magnetic order down to even zero temperature. These states are very special and cannot be identified by broken symmetries, nor do they correspond to a trivial disordered spin system. Instead, quantum spin liquids exhibit an intriguing entanglement of spins, non-trivial topological properties and quasiparticles that fractionalize into smaller parts. In fact, there are ideas to use quasiparticles in quantum spin liquids as key-ingredients for future quantum computation.
But this is probably not going to happen soon. Instead, we are presently facing the challenge to explore the basic physics of quantum spin liquids experimentally – a non-trivial, but also exciting task. In this project you will join a team of researchers exploring the atomic structure of quantum spin liquid materials as a function uniaxial pressure. Uniaxial pressure is a unique tool to control the lattice and to drive phase transitions in quantum spin liquids. The response of a quantum spin liquid to uniaxial pressure indeed tells us a lot about the physics at work. We have therefore set up a unique laboratory experiment to perform detailed x-ray studies at low temperatures while applying uniaxial pressure in a perfectly controlled way. If need be, these in-house studies will be extended to even more sensitive experiments at external synchrotron facilities. In this way, you will determine the atomic structure of these materials as a function of temperature and uniaxial pressure with extreme precision. This structural information, combined with thermodynamic measurements performed by a fellow PhD student in the group of Prof. Mackenzie and Dr. Gati, will enable us to obtain unprecedented insights into the physics of quantum spin liquids.