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Wegner's Ising gauge spins versus Kitaev's Majorana partons: Mapping and application to anisotropic confinement in spin-orbital liquids

Urban F. P. Seifert, Sergej Moroz

SciPost Phys. 16, 147 (2024) · published 5 June 2024


Emergent gauge theories take a prominent role in the description of quantum matter, supporting deconfined phases with topological order and fractionalized excitations. A common construction of $\mathbb{Z}_2$ lattice gauge theories, first introduced by Wegner, involves Ising gauge spins placed on links and subject to a discrete $\mathbb{Z}_2$ Gauss law constraint. As shown by Kitaev, $\mathbb{Z}_2$ lattice gauge theories also emerge in the exact solution of certain spin systems with bond-dependent interactions. In this context, the $\mathbb{Z}_2$ gauge field is constructed from Majorana fermions, with gauge constraints given by the parity of Majorana fermions on each site. In this work, we provide an explicit Jordan-Wigner transformation that maps between these two formulations on the square lattice, where the Kitaev-type gauge theory emerges as the exact solution of a spin-orbital (Kugel-Khomskii) Hamiltonian. We then apply our mapping to study local perturbations to the spin-orbital Hamiltonian, which correspond to anisotropic interactions between electric-field variables in the $\mathbb{Z}_2$ gauge theory. These are shown to induce anisotropic confinement that is characterized by emergence of weakly-coupled one-dimensional spin chains. We study the nature of these phases and corresponding confinement transitions in both absence and presence of itinerant fermionic matter degrees of freedom. Finally, we discuss how our mapping can be applied to the Kitaev spin-1/2 model on the honeycomb lattice.

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