Quasicrystals are metallic alloys that possess long-range, aperiodic structures with diffraction symmetries forbidden to conventional crystals. Since the discovery of quasicrystals by Schechtman et al. in 1984, there has been considerable progress in resolving their geometric structure. For example, it is well known that the golden ratio of mathematics and art occurs over and over again in their crystal structure. However, the characteristic properties of the electronic states—whether they are extended as in periodic crystals or localized as in amorphous materials—are still unresolved. Here we report the first observation of quantum (T = 0) critical phenomena of the Au-Al-Yb quasicrystal—the magnetic susceptibility and the electronic specific heat coefficient arising from strongly correlated 4f electrons of the Yb atoms diverge as T→0. Furthermore, we observe that this quantum critical phenomenon is robust against hydrostatic pressure. By contrast, there is no such divergence in a crystalline approximant, a phase whose composition is close to that of the quasicrystal and whose unit cell has atomic decorations (that is, icosahedral clusters of atoms) that look like the quasicrystal. These results clearly indicate that the quantum criticality is associated with the unique electronic state of the quasicrystal, that is, a spatially confined critical state. Finally we discuss the possibility that there is a general law underlying the conventional crystals and the quasicrystals.
- Pub Date:
- December 2012
- Condensed Matter - Strongly Correlated Electrons;
- Condensed Matter - Materials Science;
- Condensed Matter - Superconductivity
- 21 pages, 6 figures, http://www.nature.com/nmat/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nmat3432.html