"Thermodynamics of phase formation in the quantum critical metal Sr3Ru2O7"

A. W. Rost: S. A. Grigera, J. A. N. Bruin, R. S. Perry, D. Tian, S. Raghu, Steven Allan Kivelson, and A. P. Mackenzie; PNAS, 10/04/11.

Additional Authors: S. A. Grigera, J. A. N. Bruin, R. S. Perry, D. Tian, S. Raghu, Steven Allan Kivelson, and A. P. Mackenzie

Abstract:

The behavior of matter near zero temperature continuous phase transitions, or “quantum critical points” is a central topic of study in condensed matter physics. In fermionic systems, fundamental questions remain unanswered: the nature of the quantum critical regime is unclear because of the apparent breakdown of the concept of the quasiparticle, a cornerstone of existing theories of strongly interacting metals. Even less is known experimentally about the formation of ordered phases from such a quantum critical “soup.” Here, we report a study of the specific heat across the phase diagram of the model system Sr3Ru2O7, which features an anomalous phase whose transport properties are consistent with those of an electronic nematic. We show that this phase, which exists at low temperatures in a narrow range of magnetic fields, forms directly from a quantum critical state, and contains more entropy than mean-field calculations predict. Our results suggest that this extra entropy is due to remnant degrees of freedom from the highly entropic state above Tc. The associated quantum critical point, which is “concealed” by the nematic phase, separates two Fermi liquids, neither of which has an identifiable spontaneously broken symmetry, but which likely differ in the topology of their Fermi surfaces.