Phase transitions in classical and quantum spin systems
Classical and quantum spin systems are widely used models in both experimental and theoretical condensed matter physics. In many materials, the electronic interactions can be difficult to model exactly. However, in some insulators (Mott insulators), the magnetic (spin) interactions can be captured well with spin-only models. Several models are studied in this thesis. First, I report the solution of a long-standing issue in a classical frustrated spin model (i.e., where the quantum effects are neglected and the complexity is due to competing interactions): the nature of the thermal phase transition to a stripe state in the two dimensional (2D) J1-J2 model. Here J1 and J2 are nearest- and next-nearest-neighbor couplings. Monte Carlo simulations with single-spin updates are used for the calculations, and an extended-ensemble method, a generalization of the Wang-Landau algorithm, is also developed and tested. I focus on the study of "weak universality" behavior (continuously varying critical exponents, with one of the exponents staying fixed), for which I show a correspondence with a known class of conformal field theories with charge c = 1. Next, moving to quantum spins, to shed light on magnetic systems studied experimentally and to investigate new types of quantum states of interest in developing theories of quantum magnetism, I study the S = 1/2 Heisenberg model on the 2D square lattice with added six-spin interactions (the so-called J-Q3 model) as well as a set of 3D quantum antiferromagnets on dimerized lattices. Here I use the stochastic series expansion quantum Monte Carlo method. In the study of the J-Q3 model, I report on a similar weak-universality behavior as in the classical J1-J2 model, but with a mapping to a different known class of c = 1 conformal field theories. The critical behavior of the system again shows continuously changing exponents, in a way which corresponds to a gradual weakening of Z4 symmetry-breaking to an emergent U(1) symmetry. In the study of dimerized antiferromagnets, I report on a universal behavior of the Néel temperature TN, which can be related to ground state parameters independently of the microscopic interaction details in several different models.