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Field-driven spin liquids in Kitaev materials

Kitaev materials — spin-orbit assisted Mott insulators, in which local, spin-orbit entangled j=1/2 moments form that are subject to strong bond-directional interactions — have attracted broad interest for their potential to realize spin liquids. Experimentally, a number of 4d and 5d systems have been widely studied including the honeycomb materials Na2IrO3, α-Li2IrO3, and RuCl3 as candidate spin liquid compounds — however, all of these materials magnetically order at sufficiently low temperatures. In this talk, I will discuss the physics of Kitaev materials that plays out when applying magnetic fields. Experiments on RuCl3 indicate the formation of a chiral spin liquid that gives rise to an observed quantized thermal Hall effect. Conceptually, this asks for a deeper understanding of the physics of the Kitaev model in tilted magnetic fields. I will report on our recent numerical studies that give strong evidence for a Higgs transition from the well known Z2 topological spin liquid to a gapless U(1) spin liquid with a spinon Fermi surface and put this into perspective of experimental studies.