Zero field splitting

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Zero field splitting describes various interactions of the energy levels of a molecule or ion resulting from the presence of more than one unpaired electron. The unpaired electrons mutually interact to give rise to two or more energy states. It is well known that degeneracy is lifted in the presence of a magnetic field, but zero field splitting occurs even in the absence of a magnetic field. ZFS is responsible for many effects in related to the magnetic properties of materials, as manifested in their electron spin resonance spectra and magnetism.[1]

The classic case for ZFS is the spin triplet, i.e., the S=1 spin system. In the presence of a magnetic field, the levels with different values of magnetic spin quantum number (MS=0,±1) are separated and the Zeeman splitting dictates their separation. In the absence of magnetic field, the 3 levels of the triplet are isoenergetic to the first order. However, when the effect interelectron repulsions are considered, the energy of the three sublevels of the triplet are separated. This effect is ZFS. The degree of separation depends on the symmetry of the system. The effects of ZFS are often most dramatically manifested in EPR spectra.

Quantum mechanical description[edit]

The corresponding Hamiltonian can be written as:

Where S is the total Spin quantum number, and are the spin matrices. The value of the ZFS parameter are usually defined via D and E parameters. D describes the axial component of the magnetic dipole-dipole interaction, and E the transversal component. Values of D have been obtained for a wide number of organic biradicals by EPR measurements. This value may be measured by other magnetometry techniques such as SQUID; however, EPR measurements provide more accurate data in most cases. This value can also be obtained with other techniques such as optically detected magnetic resonance (ODMR; a double resonance technique which combines EPR with measurements such as fluorescence, phosphorescence and absorption), with sensitivity down to a single molecule or defect in solids like Diamond (e.g. N-V center) or Silicon Carbide.

Algebraic derivation[edit]

The start is the corresponding Hamiltonian . describes the dipolar spin-spin interaction between two unpaired spins ( and ). Where is the total spin , and being a symmetric and traceless (which it is when arises from dipole-dipole interaction) matrix, which means it is diagonalizable.






with being traceless (). For simplicity is defined as . The Hamiltonian becomes:






The key is to express as its mean value and a deviation






To find the value for the deviation which is then by rearranging equation (3):






By inserting (4) and (3) into (2) the result reads as:






Note, that in the second line in (5) was added. By doing so can be further used. By using the fact, that is traceless () equation (5) simplifies to:






By defining D and E parameters equation (6) becomes to:






with and (measurable) zero field splitting values.


  1. ^ Atherton, N.M. (1993). Principles of electron spin resonance. Ellis Horwood PTR Prentice Hall. doi:10.1016/0307-4412(95)90208-2. ISBN 0-137-21762-5. 


External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Principles of electron spin resonance: By N M Atherton. pp 585. Ellis Horwood PTR Prentice Hall. 1993 ISBN 0-137-21762-5