A distinct bosonic mode in an electron-doped high-transition-temperature superconductor

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Despite recent advances in understanding high-transition-temperature (high-Tc) superconductors, there is no consensus on the origin of the superconducting ‘glue’: that is, the mediator that binds electrons into superconducting pairs. The main contenders are lattice vibrations1,2 (phonons) and spin-excitations3,4, with the additional possibility of pairing without mediators5. In conventional superconductors, phonon-mediated pairing was unequivocally established by data from tunnelling experiments6. Proponents of phonons as the high-Tc glue were therefore encouraged by the recent scanning tunnelling microscopy experiments on hole-doped Bi2Sr2CaCu2O8-δ (BSCCO) that reveal an oxygen lattice vibrational mode whose energy is anticorrelated with the superconducting gap energy scale7. Here we report high-resolution scanning tunnelling microscopy measurements of the electron-doped high-Tc superconductor Pr0.88LaCe0.12CuO4 (PLCCO) (Tc = 24 K) that reveal a bosonic excitation (mode) at energies of 10.5 ± 2.5 meV. This energy is consistent with both spin-excitations in PLCCO measured by inelastic neutron scattering (resonance mode)8 and a low-energy acoustic phonon mode9, but differs substantially from the oxygen vibrational mode identified in BSCCO. Our analysis of the variation of the local mode energy and intensity with the local gap energy scale indicates an electronic origin of the mode consistent with spin-excitations rather than phonons.

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Figure 1: Prominent low energy spectral features on PLCCO at a temperature of 5.5 K.
Figure 2: Gap distribution, statistics and temperature dependence.
Figure 3: Statistics of the mode observed as peaks in d2I /d V2.
Figure 4: Variation of local mode energy and intensity with the local gap energy scale.


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We thank A. V. Balatsky, E. W. Hudson, P. Richard, G. Murthy, J. Engelbrecht and J. C. Davis for discussions and comments. This work was supported by the NSF and the DOE.

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Correspondence to V. Madhavan.

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This file contains Supplementary Figures 1-5 with Legends and a brief summary of experimental parameters and methods. (PDF 3524 kb)

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Niestemski, F., Kunwar, S., Zhou, S. et al. A distinct bosonic mode in an electron-doped high-transition-temperature superconductor. Nature 450, 1058–1061 (2007) doi:10.1038/nature06430

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