Spectral evidence for Dirac spinons in a kagome lattice antiferromagnet

Emergent quasiparticles with a Dirac dispersion in condensed matter systems can be described by the Dirac equation for relativistic electrons, in analogy with Dirac particles in high-energy physics. For example, electrons with a Dirac dispersion have been intensively studied in electronic systems such as graphene and topological insulators. However, charge is not a prerequisite for Dirac fermions, and the emergence of Dirac fermions without a charge degree of freedom has been theoretically predicted to be realized in Dirac quantum spin liquids. These quasiparticles carry a spin of 1/2 but are charge-neutral and so are called spinons. Here we show that the spin excitations of a kagome antiferromagnet, YCu3(OD)6Br2 [Br0.33(OD)0.67], are conical with a spin continuum inside, which is consistent with the convolution of two Dirac spinons. The predictions of a Dirac spin liquid model with a spinon velocity obtained from spectral measurements are in agreement with the low-temperature specific heat of the sample. 

Our results, thus, provide spectral evidence for a Dirac quantum spin liquid state emerging in this kagome lattice antiferromagnet. However, the locations of the conical spin excitations differ from those calculated by the nearest-neighbour Heisenberg model, suggesting the Dirac spinons have an unexpected origin.