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Isotropic quantum scattering and unconventional superconductivity

Abstract

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.

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

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Acknowledgements

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.

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

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

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Park, T., Sidorov, V., Ronning, F. et al. Isotropic quantum scattering and unconventional superconductivity. Nature 456, 366–368 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature07431

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