Frustration and Quantum Fluctuations in Heisenberg fcc Antiferromagnets

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We consider the quantum Heisenberg antiferromagnet on a face-centered-cubic lattice in which J, the second-neighbor (intrasublattice) exchange constant, dominates J′, the first-neighbor (intersublattice) exchange constant. It is shown that the continuous degeneracy of the classical ground state with four decoupled (in a mean-field sense) simple cubic antiferromagnetic sublattices is removed so that at second order in J′/J the spins are collinear. Here we study the degeneracy between the two inequivalent collinear structures by analyzing the contribution to the spin-wave zero-point energy which is of the form Heff/J=C0+C4σ1σ2σ3σ4(J′/J)4+O(J′/J)5, where σi specifies the phase of the ith collinear sublattice, C0 depends on J′/J but not on the σ’s, and C4 is a positive constant. Thus the ground state is one in which the product of the σ’s is −1. This state, known as the second kind of type A, is stable in the range |J′|<2|J| for large S. Using interacting spin-wave theory, it is shown that the main effect of the zero-point fluctuations is at small wave vector and can be well modeled by an effective biquadratic interaction of the form ΔEQeff=−1/2Q∑i,j[S(i)⋅S(j)]2/S3. This interaction opens a spin gap by causing the extra classical zero-energy modes to have a nonzero energy of order J′√S. We also study the dependence of the zero-point spin reduction on J′/J and the sublattice magnetization on temperature. The resulting experimental consequences are discussed.

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Physical Review B
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At the time of publication, author A. Brooks Harris was also affiliated with Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel. Currently, he is a faculty member in the Physics Department at the University of Pennsylvania.
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