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The Kitaev material α-RuCl3 is among the most prominent candidates to host a quantum spin-liquid state endowed with fractionalized excitations. Recent experimental and theoretical investigations have separately revealed the importance of both the magnetoelastic coupling and the magnetic anisotropy, in dependence of the applied magnetic field direction. In this combined theoretical and experimental research, we investigate the anisotropic magnetic and magnetoelastic properties for magnetic fields applied along the main crystallographic axes as well as for fields canted out of the honeycomb plane. We found that the magnetostriction anisotropy is unusually large compared to the anisotropy of the magnetization, which is related to the strong magnetoelastic Γ′˜-type coupling in our \textit{ab-initio} derived model. We observed large, non-symmetric magnetic anisotropy for magnetic fields canted out of the honeycomb ab-plane in opposite directions, namely towards the +c∗ or −c∗ axes, respectively. The observed directional anisotropy is explained by considering the relative orientation of the magnetic field with respect to the co-aligned RuCl6 octahedra. Magnetostriction measurements in canted fields support this non-symmetric magnetic anisotropy, however these experiments are affected by magnetic torque effects. Comparison of theoretical predictions with experimental findings allow us to recognize the significant contribution of torque effects in experimental setups where α-RuCl3 is placed in canted magnetic fields.

Motivated by the on-going discussion on the nature of magnetism in the quantum Ising chain CoNb2O6, we present a first-principles-based analysis of its exchange interactions by applying an \textit{ab initio} approach with additional modelling that accounts for various drawbacks of a purely density functional theory ansatz. With this method we are able to extract and understand the origin of the magnetic couplings under inclusion of all symmetry-allowed terms, and to resolve the conflicting model descriptions in CoNb2O6. We find that the twisted Kitaev chain and the transverse-field ferromagnetic Ising chain views are mutually compatible, although additional off-diagonal exchanges are necessary to provide a complete picture. We show that the dominant exchange interaction is a ligand-centered exchange process - involving the eg electrons -, which is rendered anisotropic by the low-symmetry crystal fields environments in CoNb2O6, giving rise to the dominant Ising exchange, while the smaller bond-dependent anisotropies are found to originate from d−d kinetic exchange processes involving the t2g electrons. We demonstrate the validity of our approach by comparing the predictions of the obtained low-energy model to measured THz and inelastic neutron scattering spectra.

Electronic and magnetic properties of the RuX3 (X=Cl, Br, I) family: two siblings - and a cousin?
(2022)

Motivated by reports of metallic behavior in the recently synthesized RuI3, in contrast to the Mott-insulating nature of the actively discussed α-RuCl3, as well as RuBr3, we present a detailed comparative analysis of the electronic and magnetic properties of this family of trihalides. Using a combination of first-principles calculations and effective-model considerations, we conclude that RuI3, similarly to the other two members, is most probably on the verge of a Mott insulator, but with much smaller magnetic moments and strong magnetic frustration. We predict the ideal pristine crystal of RuI3 to have a nearly vanishing conventional nearest-neighbor Heisenberg interaction and to be a quantum spin liquid candidate of a possibly different kind than the Kitaev spin liquid. In order to understand the apparent contradiction to the reported resistivity ρ, we analyze the experimental evidence for all three compounds and propose a scenario for the observed metallicity in existing samples of RuI3. Furthermore, for the Mott insulator RuBr3, we obtain a magnetic Hamiltonian of a similar form to that in the much-discussed α-RuCl3 and show that this Hamiltonian is in agreement with experimental evidence in RuBr3.

Layered {\alpha}-RuCl3 is a promising material to potentially realize the long-sought Kitaev quantum spin liquid with fractionalized excitations. While evidence of this exotic state has been reported under a modest in-plane magnetic field, such behavior is largely inconsistent with theoretical expectations of Kitaev phases emerging only in out-of-plane fields. These predicted field-induced states have been mostly out of reach due to the strong easy-plane anisotropy of bulk crystals, however. We use a combination of tunneling spectroscopy, magnetotransport, electron diffraction, and ab initio calculations to study the layer-dependent magnons, anisotropy, structure, and exchange coupling in atomically thin samples. Due to structural distortions, the sign of the average off-diagonal exchange changes in monolayer {\alpha}-RuCl3, leading to a reversal of magnetic anisotropy to easy-axis. Our work provides a new avenue to tune the magnetic interactions in {\alpha}-RuCl3 and allows theoretically predicted quantum spin liquid phases for out-of-plane fields to be more experimentally accessible.

Motivated by recent reports of a quantum-disordered ground state in the triangular lattice compound NaRuO2, we derive a jeff = 1/2 magnetic model for this system by means of first-principles calculations. The pseudospin Hamiltonian is dominated by bond-dependent off-diagonal Γ interactions, complemented by a ferromagnetic Heisenberg exchange and a notably antiferromagnetic Kitaev term. In addition to bilinear interactions, we find a sizable four-spin ring exchange contribution with a strongly anisotropic character, which has been so far overlooked when modeling Kitaev materials. The analysis of the magnetic model, based on the minimization of the classical energy and exact diagonalization of the quantum Hamiltonian, points toward the existence of a rather robust easy-plane ferromagnetic order, which cannot be easily destabilized by physically relevant perturbations.

This thesis is situated in the field of frustrated magnetism, a subfield of condensed matter physics that describes the magnetic degrees of freedom in solids. Extended Kitaev models describe a particular class of materials where spin-orbit coupling, combined with effects from crystal field theory and strong electronic correlations, leads to effective magnetic interactions that are highly anisotropic. Such interactions can give rise to exotic physics, such as the emergence of a quantum spin liquid. In this thesis, extended Kitaev models are studied theoretically, primarily using numerical methods.
A heavily investigated Kitaev candidate material is α-RuCl3, where a key question has been centered on the possible existence of a magnetic-field-induced quantum spin liquid. While numerous experimental studies have uncovered various unconventional phenomena in this material and suggested different interpretations of the underlying physics, this thesis provides a comprehensive comparison and explanation of these phenomena within one consistent theoretical framework. Aside from purely magnetic properties, an additional focus lies on magnetoelastic effects, in which the coupling of the crystal lattice to the anisotropic spin system has to be considered.
Beyond α-RuCl3, a number of more recently introduced Kitaev candidate materials are investigated theoretically. This includes the materials RuBr3 and RuI3, whose layered honeycomb crystal structures resemble α-RuCl3 but heavier ligands lead to different spin-orbit coupling effects, as well as NaRuO2, which realizes a triangular-lattice structure.