Kitaev magnetism in honeycomb RuCl3 with intermediate spin-orbit coupling

Intensive studies of the interplay between spin-orbit coupling (SOC) and electronic correlations in transition metal compounds have recently been undertaken. In particular, jeff = 1/2 bands on a honeycomb lattice provide a pathway to realize Kitaev’s exactly solvable spin model. However, since current wisdom requires strong atomic SOC to make jeff=1/2 bands, studies have been limited to iridium oxides. Contrary to this expectation, we demonstrate how Kitaev interactions arise in 4d-orbital honeycomb α-RuCl3, despite having significantly weaker SOC than the iridium oxides, via assistance from electron correlations. A strong coupling spin model for these correlation-assisted jeff = 1/2 bands is derived, in which large antiferromagnetic Kitaev interactions emerge along with ferromagnetic Heisenberg interactions. Our analyses suggest that the ground state is a zigzag-ordered phase lying close to the antiferromagnetic Kitaev spin liquid. Experimental implications for angle resolved photoemission spectroscopy, neutron scattering, and optical conductivities are discussed.

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