Valence-bond solids, vestigial order, and emergent SO(5) symmetry in a two-dimensional quantum magnet
Sandvik, Anders W.
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Citation (published version)Jun Takahashi, Anders W Sandvik. "Valence-bond solids, vestigial order, and emergent SO(5) symmetry in a two-dimensional quantum magnet." Physical Review Research, Volume 2, Issue 3, https://doi.org/10.1103/physrevresearch.2.033459
We introduce a quantum spin-1/2 model with many-body correlated Heisenberg-type interactions on the two-dimensional square lattice, designed so that the system can host a fourfold degenerate plaquette valence-bond solid (PVBS) ground state that spontaneously breaks Z4 symmetry. The system is sign-problem free and amenable to large-scale quantum Monte Carlo simulations, thus allowing us to carry out a detailed study of the quantum phase transition between the standard Néel antiferromagnetic (AFM) and PVBS states. We find a first-order transition, in contrast to previously studied continuous transitions from the AFM phase into a columnar valence-bond solid (CVBS) phase. The theory of deconfined quantum criticality predicts generic continuous AFM-CVBS and AFM-PVBS transitions, and, in one version of the theory, the two critical order parameters transform under SO(5) symmetry. Emergent SO(5) symmetry has indeed been observed in studies of the AFM-CVBS transition, and here we show that the first-order AFM-PVBS transition also exhibits SO(5) symmetry at the transition point. Such unexpected symmetry of the coexistence state, which implies a lack of energy barriers between the coexisting phases, has recently been observed at other first-order transitions, but the case presented here is the first example with SO(5) symmetry. The extended symmetry may indicate that the transition is connected to a deconfined critical point. We also discuss the first-order transition in the context of a recent proposal of spinons with fracton properties in the PVBS state, concluding that the fracton scenario is unlikely. Furthermore, we discover a novel type of eightfold degenerate VBS phase, arising when the PVBS state breaks a remaining Z2 symmetry. This second phase transition, which is continuous, implies that the PVBS phase can be regarded as an intermediate “vestigial” phase, a concept recently introduced to describe multistage phase transitions involving a continuous symmetry. Here we construct a six-dimensional order parameter and also introduce a general graph-theoretic approach to describe the two-stage discrete symmetry breaking. We discuss different ways of breaking the symmetries in one or two stages at zero and finite temperatures. In the latter case, we observe fluctuation-induced first-order transitions, which are hallmarks of vestigial phase transitions. We also mention possible connections of the AFM-PVBS transition to the SO(5) theory of high-T_c superconductivity.
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