Frustrated Kondo impurity triangle: A simple model of deconfinement

Elio J. König, Piers Coleman, Yashar Komijani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The concepts of deconfinement and topological order are of great current interest for quantum information science and for our understanding of quantum materials. Here, we introduce a simple model of three antiferromagnetically coupled Kondo impurities, a Kondo triangle, which can be used to further extend the application of these concepts to electronic systems. We show that, by tuning the magnetic frustration, the Kondo triangle undergoes a quantum phase transition between two phases of unbroken symmetry, signaling a phase transition beyond the Landau paradigm. We demonstrate that the frustrated spin liquid phase is described by a three-channel Kondo (3CK) fixed point and thus displays an irrational ground state degeneracy. Using an Abrikosov pseudofermion representation, this quantum state is categorized by an emergent U(1) gauge field and its projective symmetry group. The gauge theory is deconfining in the sense that a miniature Wilson loop orders and topological defects (instantons in the gauge field) are expelled. This phase persists in the presence of moderate Kondo screening until proliferation of topological defects leads to a quantum phase transition to an unfrustrated Fermi liquid phase. Based on this evidence, we propose that the 3CK phase displays topological order in a similar sense as gapless spin liquids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number115103
JournalPhysical Review B
Issue number11
StatePublished - Sep 15 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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