Connecting Complex Electronic Pattern Formation to Critical Exponents

Shuo Liu, Erica W. Carlson, Karin A. Dahmen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Scanning probes reveal complex, inhomogeneous patterns on the surface of many condensed matter systems. In some cases, the patterns form self-similar, fractal geometric clusters. In this paper, we advance the theory of criticality as it pertains to those geometric clusters (defined as connected sets of nearest-neighbor aligned spins) in the context of Ising models. We show how data from surface probes can be used to distinguish whether electronic patterns observed at the surface of a material are confined to the surface, or whether the patterns originate in the bulk. Whereas thermodynamic critical exponents are derived from the behavior of Fortuin–Kasteleyn (FK) clusters, critical exponents can be similarly defined for geometric clusters. We find that these geometric critical exponents are not only distinct numerically from the thermodynamic and uncorrelated percolation exponents, but that they separately satisfy scaling relations at the critical fixed points discussed in the text. We furthermore find that the two-dimensional (2D) cross-sections of geometric clusters in the three-dimensional (3D) Ising model display critical scaling behavior at the bulk phase transition temperature. In particular, we show that when considered on a 2D slice of a 3D system, the pair connectivity function familiar from percolation theory displays more robust critical behavior than the spin-spin correlation function, and we calculate the corresponding critical exponent. We discuss the implications of these two distinct length scales in Ising models. We also calculate the pair connectivity exponent in the clean 2D case. These results extend the theory of geometric criticality in the clean Ising universality classes, and facilitate the broad application of geometric cluster analysis techniques to maximize the information that can be extracted from scanning image probe data in condensed matter systems.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number39
JournalCondensed Matter
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Critical phenomena
  • Electronic inhomogeneity
  • Fractals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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