Physics Paper Named ‘Editors Suggestion’ in Physical Review B

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Harvey Mudd College Professor of Physics Nicholas Breznay ’02 and student researcher Isaac Zinda ’20 have co-authored a paper “Magnon-spinon dichotomy in the Kitaev hyperhoneycomb β−Li₂IrO₃”, which has been named an “Editor’s Suggestion” in Physical Review B.

“In short, we used cutting-edge x-ray techniques to find evidence for never-observed ‘particles’ called magnons and spinons in an exotic magnetic compound, lithium iridate,” Breznay, who studies emergent phenomena in quantum materials, explains. “Materials of this sort are candidates to realize new states of matter that could ‘democratize’ quantum computation and have other neat applications.”

The work comes as a culmination of a collaborative effort across several institutions including UC San Diego, UC Berkeley, MIT, University of Minnesota and Argonne National Lab. Researchers made strides through several week-long, 24 hour-per-day “beamtime” experiments at Argonne National Lab’s world-class x-ray facility.

Zinda participated in one of the beamtime experiments, “driving” the million-dollar experimental setup in regular shifts, and leading real-time analysis and modeling for the project.

At HMC, Breznay’s Quantum Materials lab investigates these exotic states of matter—superconductors, spin-liquid magnets, charge-ordered oxides and amorphous Anderson insulators—using hands-on experiments. His group studies complex materials, measuring and modeling their electrical properties in extreme conditions of low temperatures, intense magnetic fields, and high pressures.

Breznay has previously published 14 papers with Physical Review B, this being his first of the “Editor’s Suggestion” distinction. The paper was published May 4.