The electronic structure of heavy-fermion compounds arises from the interaction of nearly localized 4f- or 5f-shell electrons (with atomic magnetic moments) with the free-electron-like itinerant conduction-band electrons. In actinide or rare-earth heavy-fermion materials, this interaction yields itinerant electrons having an effective mass about 100 times (or more) the bare electron mass. Moreover, the itinerant electrons in UPd2Al3 are found to be superconducting well below the magnetic ordering temperature1,2 of this compound, whereas magnetism generally suppresses superconductivity in conventional metals. Here we report the detection of a dispersive excitation of the ordered f-electron moments, which shows a strong interaction with the heavy superconducting electrons. This ‘magnetic exciton’ is a localized excitation which moves through the lattice as a result of exchange forces between the magnetic moments. By combining this observation with previous tunnelling measurements on this material3, we argue that these magnetic excitons may produce effective interactions between the itinerant electrons, and so be responsible for superconductivity in a manner analogous to the role played by phonons in conventional superconductors.
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Neutron scattering experiments were performed in collaboration with G. H. Lander, B. Roessli, N. Bernhoeft, A. Hiess, Y. Endoh, and with the help of the cryogenic and technical staffs of ILL, Grenoble. We thank O. Sakai, M. Lang, N. Bernhoeft, G. H. Lander and T. Dahm for discussions and comments, and D. Preston and M. Grosche for a critical reading of the manuscript. N. K. S. is supported by a Grant-in-Aid from the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture, Japan, and K. M. is supported by the COE project of Monbusho, Japan.
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Sato, N., Aso, N., Miyake, K. et al. Strong coupling between local moments and superconducting ‘heavy’ electrons in UPd2Al3. Nature 410, 340–343 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1038/35066519
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