Directly imaging spin polarons in a kinetically frustrated Hubbard system

Max L. Prichard, Benjamin M. Spar, Ivan Morera, Eugene Demler, Zoe Z. Yan, Waseem S. Bakr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The emergence of quasiparticles in quantum many-body systems underlies the rich phenomenology in many strongly interacting materials. In the context of doped Mott insulators, magnetic polarons are quasiparticles that usually arise from an interplay between the kinetic energy of doped charge carriers and superexchange spin interactions1–8. However, in kinetically frustrated lattices, itinerant spin polarons—bound states of a dopant and a spin flip—have been theoretically predicted even in the absence of superexchange coupling9–14. Despite their important role in the theory of kinetic magnetism, a microscopic observation of these polarons is lacking. Here we directly image itinerant spin polarons in a triangular-lattice Hubbard system realized with ultracold atoms, revealing enhanced antiferromagnetic correlations in the local environment of a hole dopant. In contrast, around a charge dopant, we find ferromagnetic correlations, a manifestation of the elusive Nagaoka effect15,16. We study the evolution of these correlations with interactions and doping, and use higher-order correlation functions to further elucidate the relative contributions of superexchange and kinetic mechanisms. The robustness of itinerant spin polarons at high temperature paves the way for exploring potential mechanisms for hole pairing and superconductivity in frustrated systems10,11. Furthermore, our work provides microscopic insights into related phenomena in triangular-lattice moiré materials17–20.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-328
Number of pages6
Issue number8011
StatePublished - May 9 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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