The fundamental building block of the copper oxide superconductors is a Cu4O4 square plaquette. The plaquettes in most of these materials are slightly distorted to form a rectangular lattice, for which an influential theory predicts that high-transition-temperature (high-Tc) superconductivity is nucleated in ‘stripes’ aligned along one of the axes1,2,3. This theory received strong support from experiments that indicated a one-dimensional character for the magnetic excitations in the high-Tc material YBa2Cu3O6.6 (ref. 4). Here we report neutron scattering data on ‘untwinned’ YBa2Cu3O6+x crystals, in which the orientation of the rectangular lattice is maintained throughout the entire volume. Contrary to the earlier claim4, we demonstrate that the geometry of the magnetic fluctuations is two-dimensional. Rigid stripe arrays therefore appear to be ruled out over a wide range of doping levels in YBa2Cu3O6+x, but the data may be consistent with liquid-crystalline stripe order5. The debate about stripes has therefore been reopened.
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We thank B. Hennion, S. Kivelson, D. Manske, W. Metzner and H. Yamase for discussions, S. Lacher, H. Wendel, B. Baum and M. Bakr for crystal preparation, M. Ohl and W. Plenert for the design and manufacturing of the sample holder, H. Bender, C. Busch and H. Klann for technical support, and P. Baroni for technical support at the 2T spectrometer. We acknowledge support from the German Federal Ministry of Culture and Research (BMBF) and from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.
The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.
We use an anisotropic, damped harmonic oscillator model to describe the data collected on detwinned YBa2Cu3O6.85. This model and its parameters are discussed here and a figure is provided showing the energy dependence of the damping parameter γ along both perpendicular directions a* and b*. (DOC 252 kb)
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Hinkov, V., Pailhès, S., Bourges, P. et al. Two-dimensional geometry of spin excitations in the high-transition-temperature superconductor YBa2Cu3O6+x. Nature 430, 650–654 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature02774
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