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 (LFWT) 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), exact diagonalization, and variational Monte Carlo. The dimer state predicted by LFWT can be understood as a metastable low-entanglement solution, which can be reproduced with iPEPS with a small bond dimension. However, for large bond dimensions quantum fluctuations eventually select the plaquette state.