Physics of Hexagonal Limit-Periodic Phases: Thermodynamics, Formation and Vibrational Modes

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Limit-periodic (LP) structures exhibit a type of nonperiodic order yet to be found in a natural material. A recent result in tiling theory, however, has shown that LP order can spontaneously emerge in a two-dimensional (2D) lattice model with nearest-and next-nearest-neighbor interactions. In this dissertation, we explore the question of what types of interactions can lead to a LP state and address the issue of whether the formation of a LP structure in experiments is possible. We study emergence of LP order in three-dimensional (3D) tiling models and bring the subject into the physical realm by investigating systems with realistic Hamiltonians and low energy LP states. Finally, we present studies of the vibrational modes of a simple LP ball and spring model whose results indicate that LP materials would exhibit novel physical properties.

A 2D lattice model defined on a triangular lattice with nearest- and next-nearest-neighbor interactions based on the Taylor-Socolar (TS) monotile is known to have a LP ground state. The system reaches that state during a slow quench through an infinite sequence of phase transitions. Surprisingly, even when the strength of the next-nearest-neighbor interactions is zero, in which case there is a large degenerate class of both crystalline and LP ground states, a slow quench yields the LP state. The first study in this dissertation introduces 3D models closely related to the 2D models that exhibit LP phases. The particular 3D models were designed such that next-nearest-neighbor interactions of the TS type are implemented using only nearest-neighbor interactions. For one of the 3D models, we show that the phase transitions are first order, with equilibrium structures that can be more complex than in the 2D case.

In the second study, we investigate systems with physical Hamiltonians based on one of the 2D tiling models with the goal of stimulating attempts to create a LP structure in experiments. We explore physically realizable particle designs while being mindful of particular features that may make the assembly of a LP structure in an experimental system difficult. Through Monte Carlo (MC) simulations, we have found that one particle design in particular is a promising template for a physical particle; a 2D system of identical disks with embedded dipoles is observed to undergo the series of phase transitions which leads to the LP state.

LP structures are well ordered but nonperiodic, and hence have nontrivial vibrational modes. In the third section of this dissertation, we study a ball and spring model with a LP pattern of spring stiffnesses and identify a set of extended modes with arbitrarily low participation ratios, a situation that appears to be unique to LP systems. The balls that oscillate with large amplitude in these modes live on periodic nets with arbitrarily large lattice constants. By studying periodic approximants to the LP structure, we present numerical evidence for the existence of such modes, and we give a heuristic explanation of their structure.






Belley, Catherine Cronin Marcoux (2016). Physics of Hexagonal Limit-Periodic Phases: Thermodynamics, Formation and Vibrational Modes. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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