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Link between spin fluctuations and electron pairing in copper oxide superconductors


Although it is generally accepted that superconductivity is unconventional in the high-transition-temperature copper oxides, the relative importance of phenomena such as spin and charge (stripe) order, superconductivity fluctuations, proximity to a Mott insulator, a pseudogap phase and quantum criticality are still a matter of debate1. In electron-doped copper oxides, the absence of an anomalous pseudogap phase in the underdoped region of the phase diagram2 and weaker electron correlations3,4 suggest that Mott physics and other unidentified competing orders are less relevant and that antiferromagnetic spin fluctuations are the dominant feature. Here we report a study of magnetotransport in thin films of the electron-doped copper oxide La2 − xCe x CuO4. We show that a scattering rate that is linearly dependent on temperature—a key feature of the anomalous normal state properties of the copper oxides—is correlated with the electron pairing. We also show that an envelope of such scattering surrounds the superconducting phase, surviving to zero temperature when superconductivity is suppressed by magnetic fields. Comparison with similar behaviour found in organic superconductors5 strongly suggests that the linear dependence on temperature of the resistivity in the electron-doped copper oxides is caused by spin-fluctuation scattering.

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Figure 1: Temperature–doping ( T x ) phase diagram of La2 −  xCexCuO4.
Figure 2: Doping dependence of scattering rates in zero field.
Figure 3: Temperature dependence of normal-state resistivity.


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We thank L. Taillefer for extensive discussions and N. Doiron-Leyraud for some preliminary analysis of our zero-field data. We also appreciate discussions with A. Chubukov, A. Millis and C. Varma. Some experimental help was provided by X. Zhang, P. Bach and G. Droulers. This research was supported by the NSF under DMR-0952716 (J.P. and K.K.) and DMR-0653535 (R.L.G.) and the Maryland Center for Nanophysics and Advanced Materials (K.J. and N.P.B.).

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K.J. prepared and characterized the thin-film samples. K.J., N.P.B., K.K. and J.P. performed the transport measurements and data analysis. N.P.B., J.P. and R.L.G. wrote the manuscript. R.L.G. conceived and directed the project.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to R. L. Greene.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Jin, K., Butch, N., Kirshenbaum, K. et al. Link between spin fluctuations and electron pairing in copper oxide superconductors. Nature 476, 73–75 (2011).

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