Competing states in the SU(3) Heisenberg model on the honeycomb lattice: Plaquette valence-bond crystal versus dimerized color-ordered state
Conflicting predictions have been made for the ground state of the SU(3) Heisenberg model on the honeycomb lattice: Tensor network simulations found a plaquette order [Zhao et al., Phys. Rev. B 85, 134416 (2012)], where singlets are formed on hexagons, while linear flavor-wave theory suggested a dimerized, color-ordered state [Lee and Yang, Phys. Rev. B 85, 100402 (2012)]. In this work we show that the former state is the true ground state by a systematic study with infinite projected-entangled pair states (iPEPS), for which the accuracy can be systematically controlled by the so-called bond dimension D. Both competing states can be reproduced with iPEPS by using different unit cell sizes. For small D the dimer state has a lower variational energy than the plaquette state; however, for large D it is the latter which becomes energetically favorable. The plaquette formation is also confirmed by exact diagonalizations and variational Monte Carlo studies, according to which both the dimerized and plaquette states are nonchiral flux states.