Observation of a marginal Fermi glass using THz 2D coherent spectroscopy
Published 2020-05-21Version 1
A longstanding open problem in condensed matter physics is whether or not a strongly disordered interacting insulator can be mapped to a system of effectively non-interacting localized excitations. We investigate this issue on the insulating side of the 3D metal-insulator transition (MIT) in phosphorus doped silicon using the new technique of terahertz two dimensional coherent spectroscopy. Despite the intrinsically disordered nature of these materials, we observe coherent excitations and strong photon echoes that provide us with a powerful method for the study of their decay processes. We extract the first measurements of energy relaxation ($T_1$) and decoherence ($T_2$) times close to the MIT in this classic system. We observe that (i) both relaxation rates are linear in excitation frequency with a slope close to unity, (ii) the energy relaxation timescale $T_1$ counterintuitively increases with increasing temperature and (iii) the coherence relaxation timescale $T_2$ has little temperature dependence between 5 K and 25 K, but counterintuitively increases as the material is doped towards the MIT. We argue that these features imply that (a) the system behaves as a well isolated electronic system on the timescales of interest, and (b) relaxation is controlled by electron-electron interactions. We discuss the potential relaxation channels that may explain the behavior. Our observations constitute a qualitatively new phenomenology, driven by the interplay of strong disorder and strong electron-electron interactions, which we dub the marginal Fermi glass.