Evidence for a spinon Fermi surface in a triangular-lattice quantum-spin-liquid candidate

Nature. 2016 Dec 22;540(7634):559-562. doi: 10.1038/nature20614. Epub 2016 Dec 5.


A quantum spin liquid is an exotic quantum state of matter in which spins are highly entangled and remain disordered down to zero temperature. Such a state of matter is potentially relevant to high-temperature superconductivity and quantum-information applications, and experimental identification of a quantum spin liquid state is of fundamental importance for our understanding of quantum matter. Theoretical studies have proposed various quantum-spin-liquid ground states, most of which are characterized by exotic spin excitations with fractional quantum numbers (termed 'spinons'). Here we report neutron scattering measurements of the triangular-lattice antiferromagnet YbMgGaO4 that reveal broad spin excitations covering a wide region of the Brillouin zone. The observed diffusive spin excitation persists at the lowest measured energy and shows a clear upper excitation edge, consistent with the particle-hole excitation of a spinon Fermi surface. Our results therefore point to the existence of a quantum spin liquid state with a spinon Fermi surface in YbMgGaO4, which has a perfect spin-1/2 triangular lattice as in the original proposal of quantum spin liquids.