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216 Ch.

5 Mott Insulators

two neighbouring atoms still find it rather hard to exchange places by


squeezing past each other, thus the pair coupling constant J2 is relatively
small. However, three or four atoms forming a loop will find it quite
easy to move around, each of them chasing the tail of the previous
fellow. The four-particle ring exchange process corresponds t o the cyclic
permutation [397]

(5.53)

54 + (sj*s,)(sl.Si>
C[(si.sj)(sk.s,) - (si.s,)(sj.sl)I
.
ijkl

There are similar three-atom exchange terms. The phase diagram of


solid helium-3 is reasonably well described by suitably chosen J2, 53,
and 54 [74].
Two points have to be kept in mind. First, though the exchange
Hamiltonian of helium-3 looks like the fourth-order effective Hamilto-
nian for a half-filled Hubbard model, here the underlying physics is
completely different. For this reason, it need not be true that 54 is
much smaller than J2; in fact, they are roughly equal. Second, the en-
ergy scale is determined by the overlap of nuclear wave functions, rather
than of electron wave functions, thus it is much smaller. The ordering
temperature of 3He is -1mK.
Remarks. Let us recall our discussion of the exchange process in Sec. 2.2
and, in particular, footnote 9. There we argued that the essential condition
for exchange is that the particles be able to visit the same region of space
but they may do so while keeping away from each other all the time. This
is how the exchange of 3He atoms should be understood: it would require
very high energies to press two ls2 shells into a single ball, so the two nuclei
certainly never see each other! Let us describe the motion of an atom about
its average position by &(r) = 4(r - Ra), and its neighbour by &,(r) =
(p(r- Ra). In a mean-field sense, the two-nucleon system would be described
by a Slater determinant formed of and q5a (with the corresponding spin
functions), and the large amplitude of the atomic motion means that there
must be an appreciable “exchange charge” density 4; (r)q+,(r).However, the

-
relative motion of the two nuclei should rather be described by a correlated
wave function t+b(rl,1-2) c#~~(rl)$b(r2)g(rl-r2), where the correlator g(rl-1-2)
prevents the nuclei approaching each other closer than 2al,, where a l , is the
N

radius of the 1s2shell. The interchange of the two nuclear spins should proceed