Inhomogeneity of charge-density-wave order and quenched disorder in a high-Tc superconductor


It has recently been established that the high-transition-temperature (high-Tc) superconducting state coexists with short-range charge-density-wave order1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11 and quenched disorder12,13 arising from dopants and strain14,15,16,17. This complex, multiscale phase separation18,19,20,21 invites the development of theories of high-temperature superconductivity that include complexity22,23,24,25. The nature of the spatial interplay between charge and dopant order that provides a basis for nanoscale phase separation remains a key open question, because experiments have yet to probe the unknown spatial distribution at both the nanoscale and mesoscale (between atomic and macroscopic scale). Here we report micro X-ray diffraction imaging of the spatial distribution of both short-range charge-density-wave ‘puddles’ (domains with only a few wavelengths) and quenched disorder in HgBa2CuO4 + y, the single-layer cuprate with the highest Tc, 95 kelvin (refs 26, 27, 28). We found that the charge-density-wave puddles, like the steam bubbles in boiling water, have a fat-tailed size distribution that is typical of self-organization near a critical point19. However, the quenched disorder, which arises from oxygen interstitials, has a distribution that is contrary to the usually assumed random, uncorrelated distribution12,13. The interstitial-oxygen-rich domains are spatially anticorrelated with the charge-density-wave domains, because higher doping does not favour the stripy charge-density-wave puddles, leading to a complex emergent geometry of the spatial landscape for superconductivity.

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Figure 1: Temperature dependence and spatial distribution of CDW puddles in Hg1201.
Figure 2: Correlated quenched disorder due to Oi atomic stripes in Hg1201.
Figure 3: Spatial anticorrelation between CDW-rich and Oi-rich regions.


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We acknowledge the ESRF, ELETTRA and DESY synchrotron facilities for radiation-beam time and support. We thank the beamline scientists for help with experiments. We acknowledge the Calypso programme for travel support. We acknowledge support from the Superstripes Institute. N.P. acknowledges financial support from a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship for career development.

Author information

All authors have contributed to essential portions of this work. The experiment was conceived by A.B., G.C., N.P., G.B. and A.R.; the Hg1201 crystals were grown at ETH by S.M.K. and J.K.; N.D.Z. and N.P. performed magnetic characterization of Hg1201 single crystals; experiments at DESY were performed by A.R., G.C., N.P., M.S., M.v.Z. and D.I.; experiments at ESRF were performed by A.R., N.P., G.C., A.B. and M.B.; experiments at Elettra were performed by G.C., L.B., G.A., A.B. and A.R.; and the data analysis was carried out by G.C., A.B., G.B. and A.R. All authors discussed the results and contributed to the writing of the manuscript.

Correspondence to A. Bianconi.

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Campi, G., Bianconi, A., Poccia, N. et al. Inhomogeneity of charge-density-wave order and quenched disorder in a high-Tc superconductor. Nature 525, 359–362 (2015).

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