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Proximate Kitaev Quantum Spin Liquid Behavior in a Honeycomb Magnet...

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Nature Materials
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Quantum spin liquids (QSLs) are topological states of matter exhibiting remarkable properties such as the capacity to protect quantum information from decoherence. While their featureless ground states have precluded their straightforward experimental identification, excited states are more revealing and particularly interesting due to the emergence of fundamentally new excitations such as Majorana Fermions. Ideal probes of these excitations are inelastic neutron scattering experiments. These we report here for a ruthenium-based material α-RuCl3, continuing a major search (so far concentrated on iridium materials inimical to neutron probes) for realizations of the celebrated Kitaev honeycomb topological QSL. Our measurements confirm the requisite strong spin-orbit coupling and low-temperature magnetic order matching predictions proximate to the QSL. We find stacking faults, inherent to the highly 2D nature of the material, resolve an outstanding puzzle. Crucially, dynamical response measurements above interlayer energy scales are naturally accounted for in terms of deconfinement physics expected for QSLs. Comparing these with recent dynamical calculations involving gauge flux excitations and Majorana fermions of the pure Kitaev model, we propose the excitation spectrum of α-RuCl3 as prime candidate for realization of fractionalized Kitaev physics.