Research ArticleCONDENSED MATTER PHYSICS

The valence-fluctuating ground state of plutonium

Science Advances  10 Jul 2015:
Vol. 1, no. 6, e1500188
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1500188

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Abstract

A central issue in material science is to obtain understanding of the electronic correlations that control complex materials. Such electronic correlations frequently arise because of the competition of localized and itinerant electronic degrees of freedom. Although the respective limits of well-localized or entirely itinerant ground states are well understood, the intermediate regime that controls the functional properties of complex materials continues to challenge theoretical understanding. We have used neutron spectroscopy to investigate plutonium, which is a prototypical material at the brink between bonding and nonbonding configurations. Our study reveals that the ground state of plutonium is governed by valence fluctuations, that is, a quantum mechanical superposition of localized and itinerant electronic configurations as recently predicted by dynamical mean field theory. Our results not only resolve the long-standing controversy between experiment and theory on plutonium’s magnetism but also suggest an improved understanding of the effects of such electronic dichotomy in complex materials.

Keywords
  • Plutonium
  • valence fluctuations
  • electronic ground state
  • strongly correlated electron physics
  • material science
  • Kondo physics
  • Dynamical mean field theory
  • neutron spectroscopy

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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