Quantum Monte Carlo studies of quantum criticality in low-dimensional spin systems
Strongly correlated low-dimensional quantum spin models provide a well-established frame- work to study magnetic properties of insulators, and are of great theoretical interest and experimental relevance in condensed-matter physics. In this thesis, I use quantum Monte Carlo methods to numerically study quantum critical behavior in low-dimensional quantum spin models and wavefunctions. First, I study spinons &ndash emergent spin-1/2 bosonic excitations &ndash at certain one- and two-dimensional quantum phase transitions (QPTs) in spin models, by characterizing their size and confinement length quantitatively. In particular, I focus on the QPT from an antiferromagnetic (AFM) phase into a valence-bond solid (VBS) phase, which is an example of a violation of the standard Landau-Ginzburg-Wilson paradigm for phase transitions. This transition in two dimensions (2D) is instead likely described by a novel theory called "deconfined quantum criticality" (DQC). According to the theory, spinons should be deconfined. The degree of deconfinement is quantified in my calculations. Second, I present a comprehensive study of so-called short-bond resonating-valence-bond (RVB) spin liquids in 2D, which have been suggested as a good starting point for understanding the spin physics of high-temperature cuprates. I find that these RVB states can also be classified as quantum-critical VBS states, which indicates that RVB is less disordered than expected. This work suggests a possible mapping from the quantum RVB states to classical dimer models via a classical continuum field theory--the height model. This map explicitly bridges well-established classical results to future quantum studies. Third, I consider 1D amplitude product (AP) states, which are generalized versions of RVB states, with different wavefunction weightings of bonds according to their lengths. AP states constitute a good ansatz for certain Hamiltonians and are of broad interest in quantum magnetism. I study phase transitions from AFM-VBS phases in AP states by tuning their amplitudes, and obtain continuously varying critical exponents. In addition, I classify the 1D AP states through entanglement entropy calculations of the central charge in (1+1)D conformal field theory. This new classification could serve as guide for AP states as trial wavefunctions to search for ground states of corresponding quantum spin models.