Multiple fermion scattering in the weakly coupled spin-chain compound YbAlO3

S. E. Nikitin, S. Nishimoto, Y. Fan, J. Wu, L. S. Wu, A. S. Sukhanov, M. Brando, N. S. Pavlovskii, J. Xu, L. Vasylechko, R. Yu & A. Podlesnyak / NATURE COMMUNICATIONS/ DOI

A field-induced incommensurate spin density wave order was observed in the spin-chain material YbAlO3; however, its mechanism is not fully understood. Here, using neutron scattering and numerical calculations, the authors propose a mechanism based on multiple fermion scattering caused by weak inter-chain coupling.

The Heisenberg antiferromagnetic spin-1/2 chain, originally introduced almost a century ago, is one of the best studied models in quantum mechanics due to its exact solution, but nevertheless it continues to present new discoveries. Its low-energy physics is described by the Tomonaga-Luttinger liquid of spinless fermions, similar to the conduction electrons in one-dimensional metals. In this work we investigate the Heisenberg spin-chain compound YbAlO3 and show that the weak interchain coupling causes Umklapp scattering between the left- and right-moving fermions and stabilizes an incommensurate spin-density wave order at q = 2k(F) under finite magnetic fields. These Umklapp processes open a route to multiple coherent scattering of fermions, which results in the formation of satellites at integer multiples of the incommensurate fundamental wavevector Q = nq. Our work provides surprising and profound insight into bandstructure control for emergent fermions in quantum materials, and shows how neutron diffraction can be applied to investigate the phenomenon of coherent multiple scattering in metals through the proxy of quantum magnetic systems.