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Magnetic-field-induced charge-stripe order in the high-temperature superconductor YBa2Cu3Oy


Electronic charges introduced in copper-oxide (CuO2) planes generate high-transition-temperature (Tc) superconductivity but, under special circumstances, they can also order into filaments called stripes1. Whether an underlying tendency towards charge order is present in all copper oxides and whether this has any relationship with superconductivity are, however, two highly controversial issues2,3. To uncover underlying electronic order, magnetic fields strong enough to destabilize superconductivity can be used. Such experiments, including quantum oscillations4,5,6 in YBa2Cu3Oy (an extremely clean copper oxide in which charge order has not until now been observed) have suggested that superconductivity competes with spin, rather than charge, order7,8,9. Here we report nuclear magnetic resonance measurements showing that high magnetic fields actually induce charge order, without spin order, in the CuO2 planes of YBa2Cu3Oy. The observed static, unidirectional, modulation of the charge density breaks translational symmetry, thus explaining quantum oscillation results, and we argue that it is most probably the same 4a-periodic modulation as in stripe-ordered copper oxides1. That it develops only when superconductivity fades away and near the same 1/8 hole doping as in La2−xBaxCuO4 (ref. 1) suggests that charge order, although visibly pinned by CuO chains in YBa2Cu3Oy, is an intrinsic propensity of the superconducting planes of high-Tc copper oxides.

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Figure 1: High-field NMR spectra of YBa2Cu3O6.54 (ortho II, p = 0.108).
Figure 2: Charge density modulations compatible with NMR spectra.
Figure 3: Slow spin fluctuations instead of spin order.
Figure 4: Phase diagram of underdoped YBa2Cu3Oy.


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We thank C. Proust for discussions and help at several stages of this project, and L. Taillefer and S. Kivelson for discussions. We also thank P. Bourges, P. Carretta, S. Chakraverty, W. Chen, P. Hirschfeld, D. LeBoeuf, A. Millis, M. Norman, B. Ramshaw, S. Sachdev, S. Sanna, M. Takigawa and B. Vignolle for communications. This work was supported by the Université Joseph Fourier – Grenoble I (pôle SMIng) and Euromagnet II.

Author information




W.N.H., R.L. and D.A.B. prepared the samples. T.W., H.M, S.K. and M.-H.J. performed the experiments. S.K. and M.H. developed and operated the high-field NMR facility. H.M. created software for spectrometers and data analysis. T.W. and M.-H.J. analysed the data. C.B. provided conceptual advice and contributed to the planning of the project. M.H.J. wrote the paper and supervised the project. All authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Marc-Henri Julien.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Wu, T., Mayaffre, H., Krämer, S. et al. Magnetic-field-induced charge-stripe order in the high-temperature superconductor YBa2Cu3Oy. Nature 477, 191–194 (2011).

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