Magnetically mediated superconductivity in heavy fermion compounds

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In a conventional superconductor, the binding of electrons into the paired states that collectively carry the supercurrent is mediated by phonons — vibrations of the crystal lattice. Here we argue that, in the case of the heavy fermion superconductors CePd2Si2 and CeIn3, the charge carriers are bound together in pairs by magnetic spin–spin interactions. The existence of magnetically mediated superconductivity in these compounds could help shed light on the question of whether magnetic interactions are relevant for describing the superconducting and normal-state properties of other strongly correlated electron systems, perhaps including the high-temperature copper oxide superconductors.

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Figure 1: Possible temperature–density phase diagram of a pure metal in which magnetic order is quenched gradually with increasing lattice density.
Figure 2: Temperature–pressure phase diagram of high-purity single-crystal CePd2Si2.
Figure 3: Temperature–pressure phase diagram of high-purity single-crystal CeIn3.
Figure 4: The positions and spin alignments of the Ce atoms in the unit cells of the two materials studied.


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We thank S. V. Brown, P. Agarwal, F. V. Carter, P. Coleman, J. Flouquet, C. D. Frost, I.Gray, D. Khmelnitskii, S.J. S. Lister, P. B. Littlewood, A. P. Mackenzie, G. J. McMullan, A. J. Millis, P.Monthoux, C.Pfleiderer, E. Pugh, S. S. Saxena, A. J. Schofield, M. J. Steiner and A. Tsvelik. This research has been supported partly by the Cambridge Research Centre in Superconductivity, headed by Y. Liang, by the EPSRC of the UK, by the EU, and by the Cambridge Newton Trust.

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Correspondence to G. G. Lonzarich.

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Mathur, N., Grosche, F., Julian, S. et al. Magnetically mediated superconductivity in heavy fermion compounds. Nature 394, 39–43 (1998) doi:10.1038/27838

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