Quantum spin liquids are fascinating magnetic states where spins do not order even at zero temperature. This happens because quantum fluctuations randomize spins, establish intricate quantum entanglement among them and lead to many other remarkable quantum phenomena. In 2006, theoretical physicist Alexei Kitaev proposed an exactly solvable model of a quantum spin liquid and suggested its potential application in quantum information technology. Surprisingly, it was later shown that this theoretical model - the Kitaev spin liquid – might be realized in heavy transition metal ion materials. Recently, new materials have been synthesized and much effort spent to gather experimental evidence for a quantum spin liquid and in particular, its defining feature of spin fractionalization. For theorists this provides a unique opportunity to explore the characteristic fingerprints of quantum spin liquid physics on a more quantitative level.
Natalia Perkins is a professor at the University of Minnesota's School of Physics and Astronomy, where she studies theoretical condensed matter physics. Her research focuses on developing and analyzing microscopic models of electronic systems with strong interplay between charge, spin, and orbital degrees of freedom and on geometrical frustration. In particular, she is interested in understanding various unconventional quantum phases in correlated materials. She received her PhD from Moscow State University in 1997 and has been a fellow of the American Physical Society since 2016. In 2023 she got a Carl Friedrich von Siemens Research Award of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.