Algebraic charge liquids
High temperature superconductivity of the cuprates emerges upon changing the electron density of an insulator in which the electron spins are antiferromagnetically ordered. A key characteristic of the superconductor shen () is that electrons can be extracted from them at zero energy only if their momenta take one of four specific values at the ‘nodal points’. A central enigma has been the evolution of the zero energy electrons in the metallic state between the antiferromagnet and the superconductor, and recent experiments yield apparently contradictory results. Resistance oscillations in a magnetic field taillosc (); cooper () indicate the zero energy electrons lie on elliptical ‘Fermi pockets’, while photoemission mohit1 (); mohit2 () indicates they lie on arc-like regions. We describe new states of matter, called ‘algebraic charge liquids’, which arise naturally between the antiferromagnet and the superconductor, and reconcile these observations. Our theory also explains the density of superconducting electrons, and makes a number of unique predictions for future experiments.
Soon after the discovery of high temperature superconductivity, Anderson pwa () presented influential ideas on its connection to a novel type of insulator, in which the electron falls apart into emergent fractional particles which separately carry its spin and charge. These ideas have been extensively developed pararmps (), and can explain the nodal zero-energy electron states in the superconductor. However, it is now known that the actual cuprate insulators are not of this type, and instead have conventional antiferromagnetic order, with the electron spins aligned in a checkerboard pattern on the square lattice. A separate set of ideas stripermp () take the presence of antiferromagnetic order in the insulator seriously, but require a specific effort to induce zero energy nodal electrons in the superconductor.
Our theory of algebraic charge liquids (ACLs) uses the the recently developed theoretical framework of ‘deconfined quantum criticality’ deccp () to describe the quantum fluctuations of the electrons. We show how this framework naturally combines the virtues of the earlier approaches: we begin with the antiferromagnetic insulator, but obtain electron fractionalization upon changing the electron density. A number of experimental observations in the so-called ‘underdoped’ region between the antiferromagnet and the superconductor also fall neatly into place.
A key characteristic of an ACL is the presence of an emergent fractional particle which carries charge , no spin, and has Fermi statistics. We shall refer to this fermion as a ‘holon’. The holon comes in two species, carrying charges in its interaction with an emergent gauge field , where is a spacetime index; this is a U(1) gauge field, similar to ordinary electromagnetism. However, the analog of the electromagnetic fine structure constant is of order unity for , and so its quantum fluctuations have much stronger effects. We also introduce operators which create holons with charges . ¿From the and we can construct a variety of observables whose correlations decay with a power-law as function of distance or time in an ACL. These include valence-bond-solid and charge-density wave orders similar to those observed in recent scanning-tunnelling microscopy experiments kohsaka ().
While the carry the charge of the electron in the ACL, the spin of the electron resides on another fractional particle, the ‘spinon’, with field operator where is the spin index. The spinon is electrically neutral, and also carries gauge charge. In an ACL, the spinon is simply related to the antiferromagnetic order parameter; if is the unit vector specifying the local orientation of the checkerboard spin ordering, then , where are the Pauli matrices.
The nomenclature ‘ACL’ signals a formal connection to the previously studied insulating ‘algebraic spin liquids’ deccp (); rantwen (); stableu1 (); motherasl (); millisioffe () which have power-law spin correlations, and of which the deconfined critical point is a particular example. However, the observable properties of the ACLs are completely different, with the ‘algebraic’ (or, equivalently ‘critical’) correlations residing in the charge sector.
We begin our more detailed presentation of the ACLs by first considering the simpler state in which long-range antiferromagnetic order is preserved, but a density of electrons (per Cu atom) have been removed from the insulator. This is the AF Metal of Fig. 1. This state has been extensively discussed and well understood in the literature, and its properties have been recently summarized in Ref. kaul1 () using the same language we use here. Each missing electron creates a charge , spin fermionic ‘hole’ (to be distinguished from the spinless ‘holon’) in the antiferromagnetic state. It is known that the momenta of the holes reside in elliptical Fermi pockets centered at the points in the square lattice Brillouin zone (of lattice spacing ) - see Fig 2. This is a conventional metallic state, not an ACL, with hole-like zero energy excitations (or equivalently, the hole ‘Fermi surface’) along the dashed lines in Fig 2. In such a state, both the oscillations of the resistance as a function of applied magnetic field (SdH for Shubnikov-de Haas) and emission of electrons by light (ARPES for angle-resolved photoemission) would indicate zero energy electron states at the same momenta: along the dashed lines in Fig 2.
Now let us destroy the antiferromagnetic order by considering the vicinity of the deconfined critical point in the insulator deccp (). Arguments were presented in Ref. kaul1 () that we obtain a stable metallic state in which the electron fractionalizes into particles with precisely the quantum numbers of the and the described above. This is the holon metal phase: a similar phase was discussed in early work by Lee lee89 (), but its full structure was clarified recently kaul1 (). Below we will discuss the properties of the holon metal, and of a number of other ACLs that descend from it.
(i) Holon metal.
There is full spin rotation symmetry, and a positive energy (the spinon energy gap) is required to create a spinon. The zero energy holons inherit the zero energy hole states of the AF Metal, and so they reside along the dashed elliptical pockets in Fig 2, and these will yield SdH oscillations characteristic of these pockets ybkim (). However, the view from ARPES experiments is very different—the distinction between SdH and ARPES views is a characteristic property of all ACLs. The physical electron is a composite of and , and so the ARPES spectrum will have no zero energy states, and only a broad absorption above the spinon energy gap. The frequency of the SdH oscillations is given by the Onsager-Lifshitz relation
where is the flux quantum, and is the area in momentum space enclosed by the fermionic zero-energy charge carriers. For the holons, this area is specified by the Luttinger relation: there are 4 independent holon pockets, and the area of each pocket is
(ii) Holon-hole metal
This is our candidate state for the normal state of the cuprates at low hole density (see Fig 1). It is obtained from the holon metal when some of the holons and spinons bind to form a charge , particle, which is, of course, the conventional hole, neutral under the charge. This binding is caused by the nearest-neighbor electron hopping, and the computation of the dispersion of the bound state is described in the supplement. Now the metal has both holons and hole charge carriers, and both have independent zero energy states, i.e. Fermi surfaces. These Fermi surfaces are shown in Fig. 2, and both enclosed areas will contribute a SdH frequency via Eq. (1). The values of the areas depend upon specific parameter values, but the Luttinger relation does yield the single constraint
the factor of 2 prefactor of is due to spin of the holes. This relation can offer an explanation of the recent experiment taillosc () which observed SdH oscillations at a frequency of . We propose that these oscillations are due to the holon states. The holon density may then be inferred to be per Cu site while the total doping is . The missing density resides in the hole pockets, which by Eq. (3) will also exhibit oscillations at the frequency associated with the area . The presence of SdH oscillations at this lower frequency is a key prediction of our theory which we hope will be tested experimentally. ARPES experiments detect only the hole Fermi surface, i.e. the ‘bananas’ in Fig. 2. With a finite momentum width due to impurity scattering, and the very small area of each banana, the holon-hole metal also accounts for the arc-like regions observed in current ARPES experiments shen (); mohit1 (); mohit2 (). Furthermore, because the nearest neighbor electron hopping is suppressed by local antiferromagnetic correlations, we expect the binding to increase with temperature, and this possibly accounts for the observed temperature dependence of the arcs mohit2 ().
(iii) Holon superconductor.
Upon lowering the temperature in the holon metal, the holons pair to form a composite boson which is neutral under the charge, and the condensation of this boson leads to the holon superconductor. Just as we determined the holon dispersion in the holon metal phase by referring to previous work in the proximate AF metal, we can determine the nature of the pair wavefunction by extrapolating from the state with co-existing antiferromagnetism and superconductivity in Fig 1. The latter state was studied by Sushkov and collaborators sushkov1 (); sushkov2 (), and they found that holes paired with -wave symmetry. Hence the AF+dSC state in Fig 1. We assume that the same pairing amplitude extends into the ACL obtained by restoring spin rotation symmetry and inducing a spinon energy gap. The resulting holon superconductor is not smoothly connected to the conventional BCS -wave superconductor because of the spin gap. The theory describing the low energy excitations of the holons in the holon superconductor is developed in the supplement: it is found to be a mathematical structure know as a conformal field theory (CFT). The present CFT has the U(1) gauge field coupled minimally to species of Dirac fermions, (), which are descended from the holons after pairing. Such CFTs have been well-studied in other contexts rantwen (); stableu1 (); motherasl (); franz (). For us, the important utility of the CFT is that it allows us to compute the temperature () and dependence of the density of superfluid electron, (measured in units of energy through its relation to the London penetration depth, by , with the spacing between the layers in the cuprates). For this, we need the coupling of the CFT to the vector potential of the electromagnetic field: this is studied in the supplement and has the form where is a conserved ‘flavor’ current of the Dirac fermions . The dependence of is then related to the dependence of the susceptibility associated with : such susceptiblities were computed in Ref. csy (). In a similar manner we found that as at small
where is a non-universal constant and is a universal number characteristic of CFT. Remarkably, such a is seen in experiments pendepth1 (); pendepth2 (); letacon () on the cuprates over a range of and . The phenomenological importance of such a was pointed out by Lee and Wen leewen97 (), although Eq. (4) has not been obtained in any earlier theory ivanov (). The holon superconductor provides an elegant route to this behavior, moreover with universal. We analyzed the CFT in a expansion and obtained
We note that in the cuprates, there is a superconductor-insulator transition at a non-zero , and in its immediate vicinity distinct quantum critical behavior of is expected, as has been observed recentlysit (). However, in characterizing different theories of the underdoped regime, it is useful to consider the behavior as assuming the superconductivity survives until . In this limit, our present theory is characterized by , while theories of Refs. ivanov (); mohit3 () have .
(iv) Holon-hole superconductor.
This is our candidate state of the superconductor at low hole density (see Fig 1). It is obtained from a pairing instability of the holon-hole metal, just as the holon superconductor was obtained from the holon metal. It is a modified version of the holon superconductor, which has in addition low energy excitations from the paired holes. The latter will yield the observed V-shaped spectrum in tunneling measurements. The holon-hole metal will also have a residual metallic thermal conductivity at low in agreement with experiment. For we will obtain in addition to the terms in Eq. (4), a contribution from the nodal holes to . This contribution can be computed using the considerations presented in Refs. leewen97 (); ivanov (): it has only a weak -dependence coming from the ratio of the velocities (which can in principle be extracted from ARPES) in the two spatial directions. In particular, the holes carry a current and not ; the latter is the case in other theories ivanov (); mohit3 () of electron fractionalization which consequently have .
Perhaps the most dramatic implication of these ideas is the possibility that the superconducting ground state of the underdoped cuprates is not smoothly connected to the conventional superconductors described by the theory of Bardeen, Cooper, and Schrieffer(BCS). With the reasonable additional assumption that such a BCS ground state is realized in the overdoped cuprates, it follows that our proposal requires at least one quantum phase transition inside the superconducting dome.
We represent the electron operatorkaul1 () on square lattice site and spin as
where are the 2 sublattices, and is the unit antisymmetric tensor. The are spinless charge- fermions carrying opposite gauge charge on the 2 sublattices. They will be denoted respectively. The effective action of the doped antiferromagnet on the square lattice has the structure
where is a momentum extending over the diamond Brillouin zone in Fig. 2. is the lattice action for spinons. describes holons hopping on the same sublattice, preserving the sublattice index ; the holon dispersion has minima at the , and is the holon chemical potential. The first term in describes an on-site electron chemical potential; the second to opposite sublattice electron hopping between nearest neighbors; the coupling is expected to be significantly renormalized down by the local antiferromagnetic order from the bare electron hopping element . We have not included the gauge field in the above action which is easily inserted by the requirements of gauge invariance and minimal coupling.
For small , , the condense, and we obtain the familiar AF Metal state with hole pockets (see Fig. 1). For larger , we reach the holon metal phase kaul1 (), in which the are gapped. The term leads to two distinct (but not exclusive) instabilities of the holon metal phase: towards pairing of the holons and the formation of bound states between the holons and spinons. These lead, respectively, to the holon superconductor and the holon-hole metal (and to holon-hole superconductor when both are present). The term will also significantly modify the spin correlation spectrum, likely inducing incommensurate spin correlations ss (), but this we will not address here.
Consider, first, the instability due to pairing between opposite gauge charges, so that the order parameter carries physical charge , spin , and gauge charge . The gauge symmetry remains unbroken. The low energy theory of the holon superconductor has gapless nodal Dirac holons coupled to the gauge field with the action
Here are spacetime indices , and . This describes massless QED theory with species of 2-component Dirac fermions which flows (within a expansion) at low energies to a stable fixed point rantwen (); stableu1 () describing a CFT.
As the superconductivity arises through pairing of holons from a Fermi surface of area , the superfluid density . At we need to include thermal excitation of unpaired holons, which are coupled to the vector potential of the physical electromagnetism by
Next we consider the -induced holon-spinon binding in the holon metal which leads to the appearance of the holon-hole metal at low temperatures. is a momentum dependent attractive contact interaction proportional to , with between a holon and spinon with center-of-mass momentum We discuss the energy of a bound holon-spinon composite using a non-relativistic Schrodinger equation assuming initially that only a single holon is injected into the paramagnet and ignoring gauge interactions. Consider a single holon valley (say valley 1). Taking a parabolic holon dispersion near
with , and a spinon dispersion
centered at the energy of the holon-spinon composite will be
where . Define
with the wavefunctions of a composite of a -holon and a spinon separated by and with center-of-mass momentum . This satisfies the Schrodinger equation
where and . ( is a Pauli matrix acting on .) For the momenta of interest, this gives a -dependent hole binding energy
with . Thus the dispersion for becomes
The minimum of is at a non-zero energy. Further as a function of it is shifted along the positive direction by an amount with .
Considering both holon and hole bands, it is clear that with increasing doping both bands will be occupied to get a holon-hole metal. In the full Brillouin zone is at momentum so that the hole Fermi surface lies entirely inside the diamond region and has the rough banana shape shown in Fig. 2. The gauge interaction can now be included and leads to the properties discussed in the main text.
Correspondence and request for materials to T. Senthil (email@example.com). We thank Eric Hudson, Alessandra Lanzara, Patrick Lee, Mohit Randeria, Louis Taillefer, Ziqiang Wang, Zheng-Yu Weng, and Xingjiang Zhou for many useful discussions. This research was supported by the NSF grants DMR-0537077 (SS and RKK), DMR-0132874 (RKK), DMR-0541988 (RKK), the NSERC (YBK), the CIFAR (YBK), and The Research Corporation(TS).
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