Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Isotropic quantum scattering and unconventional superconductivity


Superconductivity without phonons has been proposed for strongly correlated electron materials that are tuned close to a zero-temperature magnetic instability of itinerant charge carriers1. Near this boundary, quantum fluctuations of magnetic degrees of freedom assume the role of phonons in conventional superconductors, creating an attractive interaction that ‘glues’ electrons into superconducting pairs. Here we show that superconductivity can arise from a very different spectrum of fluctuations associated with a local (or Kondo-breakdown) quantum critical point2,3,4,5 that is revealed in isotropic scattering of charge carriers and a sublinear, temperature-dependent electrical resistivity. At this critical point, accessed by applying pressure to the strongly correlated, local-moment antiferromagnet CeRhIn5, magnetic and charge fluctuations coexist and produce electronic scattering that is maximal at the optimal pressure for superconductivity. This previously unanticipated source of pairing glue6 opens possibilities for understanding and discovering new unconventional forms of superconductivity.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Temperature–pressure phase diagram of CeRhIn5.
Figure 2: Temperature–pressure variation of resistivity anisotropy.
Figure 3: Pressure-dependent c -axis resistivity.


  1. Monthoux, P., Pines, D. & Lonzarich, G. G. Superconductivity without phonons. Nature 450, 1177–1183 (2007)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Si, Q., Rabello, S., Ingersent, K. & Smith, J. L. Locally critical quantum phase transitions in strongly correlated metals. Nature 413, 804–808 (2001)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Coleman, P., Pepin, C., Si, Q. & Ramazashvili, R. How do Fermi liquids get heavy and die? J. Phys. Condens. Matter 13, R723–R738 (2001)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Paul, I., Pepin, C. & Norman, M. R. Kondo breakdown and hybridization fluctuations in the Kondo-Heisenberg lattice. Phys. Rev. Lett. 98, 026402 (2007)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Pepin, C. Kondo breakdown as a selective Mott transition in the Anderson lattice. Phys. Rev. Lett. 98, 206401 (2007)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Gegenwart, P., Si, Q. & Steglich, F. Quantum criticality in heavy-fermion metals. Nature Phys. 4, 186–197 (2008)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Bardeen, J., Cooper, L. N. & Schrieffer, J. R. Theory of superconductivity. Phys. Rev. 108, 1175–1204 (1957)

    ADS  MathSciNet  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Abrikosov, A. A. & Gor’kov, L. P. Contribution to the theory of superconducting alloys with paramagnetic impurities. Zh. Eksp. Teor. Fiz. 39, 1781–1796 (1960); Sov. Phys. JETP 12, 1243–1253 (1961)

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Mathur, N. D. et al. Magnetically mediated superconductivity in heavy fermion compounds. Nature 394, 39–43 (1998)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Hewson, A. C. The Kondo Problem to Heavy Fermions (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1993)

    Book  Google Scholar 

  11. Rosch, A. Interplay of disorder and spin fluctuations in the resistivity near a quantum critical point. Phys. Rev. Lett. 82, 4280–4283 (1999)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Paschen, S. et al. Hall-effect evolution across a heavy-fermion quantum critical point. Nature 432, 881–885 (2004)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Bao, W. et al. Anisotropic three-dimensional magnetic fluctuations in heavy fermion CeRhIn5 . Phys. Rev. B 65, 100505 (2002)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Park, T. et al. Hidden magnetism and quantum criticality in the heavy fermion superconductor CeRhIn5 . Nature 440, 65–68 (2006)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Stewart, G. R. Non-Fermi-liquid behavior in d- and f-electron metals. Rev. Mod. Phys. 73, 797–885 (2001)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Shishido, H. et al. A drastic change of the Fermi surface at a critical pressure in CeRhIn5: dHvA study under pressure. J. Phys. Soc. Jpn 74, 1103–1106 (2005)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Settai, R. et al. De Haas-van Alphen experiments under extreme conditions of low temperature, high field and high pressure, for high-quality cerium and uranium compounds. J. Phys. Condens. Matter 13, L627–L634 (2001)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Normile, P. S. et al. High-pressure structural parameters of the superconductors CeMIn5 and PuMGa5 (M = Co, Rh). Phys. Rev. B 72, 184508 (2005)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Lohneysen, H. V., Rosch, A., Vojta, M. & Wolfle, P. Fermi-liquid instabilities at magnetic quantum phase transitions. Rev. Mod. Phys. 79, 1015–1075 (2007)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Mackenzie, A. P. et al. Extremely strong dependence of superconductivity on disorder in Sr2RuO4 . Phys. Rev. Lett. 80, 161–164 (1998)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Paglione, J., Sayles, T. A., Ho, P.-C., Jeffries, J. R. & Maple, M. B. Incoherent non-Fermi-liquid scattering in a Kondo lattice. Nature Phys. 3, 703–706 (2007)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Yuan, H. Q. et al. Observation of two distinct superconducting phases in CeCu2Si2 . Science 302, 2104–2107 (2003)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Flint, R., Dzero, M. & Coleman, P. Heavy electrons and the symplectic symmetry of spin. Nature Phys. 4, 643–648 (2008)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Panagopoulos, C. et al. Evidence for a generic quantum transition in high-T c cuprates. Phys. Rev. B 66, 064501 (2002)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors thank Q. Si, C. D. Batista, A. V. Balatsky, C. Varma, Z. Nussivnov, D. Pines and N. J. Curro for discussions. Work at Los Alamos National Laboratory was performed under the auspices of the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, with support from the Los Alamos Directed Research and Developmental programme. V.A.S. appreciates the support of the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (grant no. 06-02-16590) and the Program of the Presidium of RAS on Physics of Strongly Compressed Matter.

Author Contributions T.P., V.A.S., F.R., Y.T., H.L. and R.M. collected data. E.D.B. and J.L.S. synthesized CeRhIn5 and LaRhIn5 single crystals. J.-X.Z. and F.R. analysed data. T.P. and J.D.T. designed the study, analysed data and wrote the paper. All authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding authors

Correspondence to T. Park or J. D. Thompson.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

This file contains Supplementary Methods, a Supplementary Discussion, Supplementary References and Supplementary Figures S1-S6 with Legends (PDF 1321 kb)

PowerPoint slides

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Park, T., Sidorov, V., Ronning, F. et al. Isotropic quantum scattering and unconventional superconductivity. Nature 456, 366–368 (2008).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing