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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/H048375/1
Title: Quantum Phase Transitions and Quantum Criticality in Helium Films
Principal Investigator: Saunders, Professor J
Other Investigators:
Cowan, Professor B Casey, Dr AJ Lusher, Dr C
Nyeki, Dr J
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Federal Standards Laboratory PTB Berlin London Centre for Nanotechnology
Department: Physics
Organisation: Royal Holloway, Univ of London
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 20 September 2010 Ends: 19 September 2014 Value (£): 1,125,863
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Quantum Fluids & Solids
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
25 Feb 2010 Physical Sciences Panel - Physics Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Historically quantum fluids, the helium liquids near absolute zero, have provided simple model systems which have played a crucial role in the development of key concepts in condensed matter physics. The understanding of superfluidity and broken gauge symmetry; the development of the standard model of correlated fermions; the first unconventional superfluid/superconductor; the central role of topological excitations in two dimensional physics: all these discoveries and insights arose from the study of helium. The study of quantum fluids has also fuelled developments in techniques for producing and measuring low temperatures, high magnetic fields, and a host of novel measurement techniques and instrumentation. We propose to study a variety of low dimensional helium model systems to address fundamental issues in the understanding of strongly correlated quantum matter. We will study helium-3 (fermion) films and helium-4 (boson) films. These films grow as atomic layers on the atomically flat surface of graphite, and the lattice potential experienced by a helium layer can give rise to a triangular superlattice structure. The density of these layers can be varied essentially continuously to tune between different quantum mechanical ground states. These may include ground states theoretically proposed but yet to be unambiguously realized. We will study the quantum phase transitions between different ground states in some detail. We will study the Mott transition between a 2D helium-3 Fermi liquid and a 2D quantum spin liquid and the properties of the hole-doped spin liquid on a triangular lattice. We will attempt to stabilise a Mott insulator on a square lattice and perform a comparable experiment. In the corresponding helium-4 film we will study the superfluid-insulator transition, and investigate possible 2D supersolid behaviour. We will develop a highly ordered graphite substrate with a view to optimising conditions under which to search for the holy grail of unconventional superfluidity in a helium-3 fluid monolayer. We will investigate quantum criticality in the helium-3 bilayer heavy fermion system recently discovered by us. And we will study helium-3 in nano-channels as a one dimensional fermion system, and a possible realization of a Luttinger liquid. These experiments on fermionic and bosonic cold atoms are performed on uniform low dimensional systems in thermodynamic equilibrium at precisely measured temperatures in the range 200 microKelvin to 4K. The lowest temperatures will be produced by nuclear adiabatic demagnetization cryostats in our laboratory. A range of high precision experimental probes will be employed to study these systems. Sensitive NMR techniques developed in our laboratory, based on the detection of the precessing magnetic signal by SQUIDs (Superconducting Quantum Interference Devices), will be used to measure magnetic susceptibility, magnetization and spin dynamics. We will extend measurements of the heat capacity to the lowest temperatures in order to access system entropy and probe the elementary excitations. The superfluid density, and any dissipative component of the response, will be measured by high quality torsional mechanical resonators. We will collaborate on developing graphene based nano-mechanical resonators with wide-bandwidth SQUID amplifier detection. The project is expected to lead to fundamental insights into some of the most central issues in the physics of strongly correlated matter, and impact on the understanding of more complex materials of potential technological relevance. The project will drive innovation of new instrumentation and measurement techniques at an important scientific frontier; the low temperature frontier. As in any frontier science we may encounter the unexpected.
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