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Publication# Commensurate-incommensurate transition in the chiral Ashkin-Teller model

Résumé

We investigate the classical chiral Ashkin-Teller model on a square lattice with the corner transfer matrix renormalization group algorithm. We show that the melting of the period-4 phase in the presence of a chiral perturbation takes different forms depending on the coefficient of the four-spin term in the Ashkin-Teller model. Close to the clock limit of two decoupled Ising models, the system undergoes a two-step commensurate-incommensurate transition as soon as the chirality is introduced, with an intermediate critical floating phase bounded by a Kosterlitz-Thouless transition at high temperature and a Pokrovsky-Talapov transition at low temperature. By contrast, close to the four-states Potts model, we argue for the existence of a unique commensurate-incommensurate transition that belongs to the chiral universality class, and for the presence of a Lifshitz point where the ordered, disordered, and floating phases meet. Finally, we map the whole phase diagram, which turns out to be in qualitative agreement with the 40-year-old prediction by Huse and Fisher.

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The discovery of high temperature superconductivity in the cuprates in 1986 has boosted the research in strongly correlated materials. One strong motivation was and stays the understanding the high-Tc phenomenon with the hope that one can ultimately engineer new materials with even higher Tc. Besides the in-depth investigation of cuprates, there is a strong tendency in the solid state community to find new superconductors, which by themselves are interesting for applications, or by their properties they can contribute to the understanding of the high-Tc phenomenon. The program of my doctoral thesis was three-fold: i) to address one important issue in the cuprate superconductors, that of the role of homogeneity in the underdoped part of the phase diagram; ii) what is the effect of disorder in MgB2 superconductor, which has high potentials for applications; iii) to discover new superconductors in the family of transition metal dichalcogenides. All these materials are in some sense unconventional superconductors. The cuprates by their high Tc and the symmetry of the order parameter, MgB2 by its two-band superconductivity and Tc of 39 K, and the dichalcogenides by the appearance of superconductivity on the background of competing interactions. Measurements of transport properties, such as resistivity and thermoelectric power, were used to get insight in the behavior of these materials. Besides temperature as variable, I applied high pressure, extreme magnetic fields and controlled disorder introduced by fast electron irradiation. In the first part I present the pressure dependent study of two members of the transition metal dichalcogenides having 1T structure, 1T-TiSe2 and 1T-TaS2, where superconductivity was never observed in a pristine sample. 1T-TiSe2 has a CDW phase below 220 K which origin, weather it is driven by an excitonic mechanism or by a Jahn-Teller distortion, is an ongoing question. By applying pressure I showed that the pristine sample is superconducting in the pressure range of 2.0–4.0 GPa. This range remarkably coincides with the short range fluctuating CDW before its disappearance at the upper pressure value. If CDW is due to excitonic interactions than our observations suggest that it can be at the origin of superconductivity, as well. The second dichalcogenide is the 1T-TaS2, where a Mott-insulator phase appears on the top of a commensurate CDW. By applying pressure I was able to melt that Mott-phase, and reveal that the material is superconducting above 2.5 GPa with Tc of 5.9 K. Unexpectedly, superconductivity is born from a nonmetallic phase, and stays remarkably stable up to the highest applied pressure of 24 GPa. In the second part I tried to give my contribution to the field of high-Tc superconductors. I carefully selected few high quality underdoped Bi2Sr2PrxCa1-xCu2O8-δ sample, to address the nature of the low temperature ground state by applying high magnetic field. Although former measurements by other groups showed that at high underdoping, the ground state is an insulator, I found that a sample with as low Tc as 15 K exhibits metallic behavior up to 60 T. Furthermore, I showed that a inhomogeneous distribution of the doping atoms can completely mask the intrinsic normal state of a high-Tc superconductor. In the last part of my thesis I focused on the two-band superconductor MgB2 by studying the scattering between the bands by the means of the Matthiessen's rule. I made a systematic study of the influence of defects created by fast electron irradiation, and found that the the Matthiessen's rule is satisfied for the defect concentration range I induced. I further compare the influence of defects on the critical temperature and the residual resistivity in MgB2 with superconductors with various order parameters, and found that the decrease-rate of Tc in our system is within the range of a response of a superconductor with an s-wave order parameter.

This work is devoted to the study of spin S = 1 systems, and more precisely to the emergence of exotic quantum phases in such systems, and to the establishment of tools to observe such phases. It is split in four main chapters. In the first chapter, we show how spin S = 1 systems can emerge from microscopic models, and which kinds of interaction might appear in the effective spin model. We start from a two-orbital Hubbard model, and by a strong coupling development to fourth order, we derive an effective model. We will see that three types of interaction appear beyond the Heisenberg interaction : a plaquette interaction, a biquadratic interaction and a three-spin interaction. In the second chapter, we study Raman scattering on systems with quadrupolar order to show that it can be used to probe such order. We first start by deriving an effective light scattering operator following Shastry and Shraiman calculation on spin S = 1/2 systems. Using this effective operator, we compute the Raman spectra with exact diagonalization and linear flavor-wave theory. We show that two different regimes appear depending on the incoming photon energy, and that combining this to different polarizations accessible with Raman scattering, the presence of quadrupolar order can be established with this probe. The third chapter is devoted to the study of the three-spin interaction that appeared in the first chapter on a chain. We start by establishing the classical and the mean field phase diagram of this system. We then turn to the quantum case. We show that, whatever the value of the spin is, the ground state is perfectly dimerized for a particular value of the three-spin interaction. The presence of such a point in the phase diagram implies the existence of a quantum phase transition when increasing the three-spin interaction. By an intensive numerical study, we show that this transition is continuous, and that its critical behavior is the one of a SU(2)k=2S Wess-Zumino-Witten model, at least for spins S = 1/2,1,3/2,2. In the last section of this chapter, we study the phase diagram of the chain for spin S = 1 under a magnetic field. We conclude this work with a study of the three-spin interaction on a square lattice. The classical and mean field phase diagram are established. It is shown that for a large three-spin interaction, the classical ground state is highly degenerate. This degeneracy is lifted in the quantum case by a process of order by disorder. We compute the quantum fluctuations with linear spin-wave theory, and show that some phases are selected over others. We confirm these results by an exact diagonalization study of the system.

The first part of this thesis discusses technical details relating to measurements of magnetic properties at ultra low temperatures. The implementation of AC susceptibility at temperatures down to 30 mK is introduced and used as a platform to showcase selected quantum magnets measured during the thesis. Each presented system illustrates a particular strength of AC susceptibility. This is followed by in-depth analysis of the design and implementation of a new solution for a SQUID magnetometer capable of running below 100 mK. The system employs a piezomotor to move the sample inside a dilution fridge, rather than the existing designs, which involve moving the entire dilution fridge. Furthermore, the system is completely modular, allowing for rapid removal from the fridge, and opening the possibility to use it on virtually any commercial dilution refrigerator. The latter part of the thesis presents a comprehensive study of a new family of model magnets, LiHox Er1−x F4, which combines the Ising spins of ferromagnetic LiHoF4 with the XY ones of antiferromagnetic LiErF4. The temperature-doping (T − x) phase diagram has been studied using AC susceptibility, and three key regions investigated in detail using additional neutron scattering experiments and mean-field calculations. The first region, x ≳ 0.6, corresponds to an Ising ferromagnet, where Tc (x) decreases linearly and faster than what mean-field predicts. At T < TC a so-called embedded spin-glass state is observed. The second region, 0.6 ≳ x ≳ 0.3, undergoes a spin-glass transition, where needle-like spin clusters form along the Ising axis below Tg (x) ∼ 0.4 − 0.5 K. Applying a field along the Ising axis at T < 200 mK produces a thermal runaway in the x = 0.50 sample, when the field reaches a value of H = 0.029 ± 0.002 T. The final region, x ≲ 0.3, corresponds to an antiferromagnetically coupled spin-glass, which shows archetypal spin-glass behaviour.