Motivated by recent observations of threefold rotational symmetry breaking in twisted moiré systems, cold-atom optical lattices, quantum Hall systems, and triangular antiferromagnets, we phenomenologically investigate the strain-temperature phase diagram of the electronic 3-state Potts-nematic order. While in the absence of strain the quantum Potts-nematic transition is first order, quantum critical points (QCP) emerge when uniaxial strain is applied, whose nature depends on whether the strain is compressive or tensile. In one case, the nematic amplitude jumps between two nonzero values while the nematic director remains pinned, leading to a symmetry-preserving metanematic transition that terminates at a quantum critical end point. For the other type of strain, the nematic director unlocks from the strain direction and spontaneously breaks an in-plane twofold rotational symmetry, which in twisted moiré superlattices triggers an electric polarization. Such a piezoelectric transition changes from first to second order upon increasing strain, resulting in a quantum tricritical point. Using a Hertz-Millis approach, we show that these QCPs share interesting similarities with the widely studied Ising-nematic QCP. The existence of three minima in the nematic action also leaves fingerprints in the strain-nematic hysteresis curves, which display multiple loops. At nonzero temperatures, because the upper critical dimension of the 3-state Potts model is smaller than three, the Potts-nematic transition is expected to remain first order in three dimensions, but to change to second order in two dimensions (2D). As a result, the 2D strain-temperature phase diagram displays two first-order transition wings bounded by lines of critical end points or tricritical points, reminiscent of the phase diagram of metallic ferromagnets. We discuss how our results can be used to unambiguously identify spontaneous Potts-nematic order.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank H. Ochoa and J. Venderbos for fruitful discussions. This work was supported by the U. S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences, Materials Sciences and Engineering Division, under Award No. DE-SC0020045.
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