Abstract
A theory of superconductivity in the ironbased materials requires an understanding of the phase diagram of the normal state. In these compounds, superconductivity emerges when stripe spin density wave (SDW) order is suppressed by doping, pressure or atomic disorder. This magnetic order is often preempted by nematic order, whose origin is yet to be resolved. One scenario is that nematic order is driven by orbital ordering of the iron 3d electrons that triggers stripe SDW order. Another is that magnetic interactions produce a spinnematic phase, which then induces orbital order. Here we report the observation by neutron powder diffraction of an additional fourfoldsymmetric phase in Ba_{1−x}Na_{x}Fe_{2}As_{2} close to the suppression of SDW order, which is consistent with the predictions of magnetically driven models of nematic order.
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Introduction
There have been extensive investigations of the phase diagrams of the various iron arsenide and chalcogenide structures that display high temperature superconductivity with critical temperatures up to 55 K^{1,2,3,4}. In common with other unconventional superconductors, such as the copper oxides, heavy fermions and organic chargetransfer salts, superconductivity is induced by suppressing a magnetically ordered phase, which generates a high density of magnetic fluctuations that could theoretically bind the Cooper pairs. Whether this is responsible for the high transition temperatures has not been conclusively established, but it makes the origin of the magnetic interactions an important issue to be resolved^{5,6}.
In nearly all the iron arsenides and chalcogenides, the iron atoms form a square planar net and the magnetic order consists of ferromagnetic stripes along one iron–iron bond direction that are antiferromagnetically aligned along the orthogonal iron–iron bond^{6,7}. These systems are metallic and the Fermi surfaces, which are formed by the iron 3d electrons, are nearly cylindrical with hole pockets at the centre of the Brillouin zone and electron pockets at the zone boundaries, all of similar size. In such an electronic structure, interactions between electrons near the two sets of pockets give rise to a spin density wave (SDW) order at the wave vector connecting them^{8}. This itinerant picture is consistent with the wave vector of the observed antiferromagnetism, angle resolved photoemission (ARPES) measurements of the electronic structure^{9,10} and the evolution of the dynamic magnetic susceptibility with carrier concentration^{11,12,13}.
However, any theory of the magnetic order also has to explain the structural transition that occurs at a temperature either just above or coincident with the SDW transition and lowers the symmetry from tetragonal (C_{4}) to orthorhombic (C_{2}). This is often referred to as nematic order, and the relation between nematicity, magnetic order and superconductivity has become one of the central questions in the ironbased superconductors^{14,15}.
At present, there are two scenarios for the development of nematic order and its relation to SDW order. In the first, the structural order is unrelated to magnetism and is driven by orbital ordering as the primary instability. The orbital ordering induces magnetic anisotropy and triggers the magnetic transition at a lower temperature by renormalizing the exchange constants^{16,17,18}. This scenario is largely phenomenological, but there have been recent efforts to develop a microscopic basis^{19}.
In the second scenario, the structural order is driven by magnetic fluctuations, associated with the fact that striped SDW order can be along the xaxis (ordered momentum is Q_{X}=(0, π)) or along the yaxis (ordered momentum is Q_{Y}=(π, 0)). Theory predicts that the Z_{2} symmetry between the X and Y directions can be broken above the true SDW ordering temperature that breaks O(3) spin symmetry, that is, the system distinguishes between Q_{X} and Q_{Y} without breaking time reversal symmetry^{20}. The order parameter of this ‘Isingspinnematic state’ couples linearly to the lattice, inducing both structural and orbital order. The magnetic scenario has been developed for itinerant^{8,20} and localized^{21,22,23,24} electrons, and the phase diagrams are rather similar in the two approaches. Below we use the fact that the systems we study are metals and use an itinerant approach.
Many of the observable properties are identical in both the orbital and magnetic scenarios, hindering a determination of the origin of nematicity. In the following, we report the discovery of a new magnetic phase in holedoped Ba_{1−x}Na_{x}Fe_{2}As_{2} (refs 25, 26) at doping levels close to the suppression of magnetic order. This second phase, which occurs at temperatures below the conventional C_{2} transition, restores C_{4} rotational symmetry, indicating that the SDW order combines Q_{X} and Q_{Y} with equal weights. Such a second transition is highly unlikely in an orbital scenario because the breaking of symmetry of Q_{X} and Q_{Y} is a precondition for a magnetic transition to occur. However, it is known that such a phase is a possible solution of itinerant magnetic models for certain combinations of electronic interactions and/or Fermi surface geometries^{8,27,28,29}. By going beyond our earlier GinzburgLandau analysis, we now show that the phase diagram is much richer than previously thought and that the C_{4} phase becomes energetically favourable at higher doping levels, particularly in the range of phase coexistence with superconductivity^{29}. We therefore view the observation of the transition to an SDW state, which does not break the symmetry between Q_{X} and Q_{Y}, as a strong indication that the nematic order is of magnetic origin.
A magnetically driven C_{4} phase also provides a natural explanation for the new phase observed in transport measurements in Ba_{1−x}K_{x}Fe_{2}As_{2} under external pressure^{30} and may explain anomalous diffraction results in Ba(Fe_{1−x}Mn_{x})_{2}As_{2} (ref. 31), so it is probably present in other ironbased superconductors, although our calculations show that its stability is highly sensitive to details of the electronic structure.
In the following, we describe the experimental evidence for a reentrant C_{4} phase in neutron and xray diffraction data on Ba_{1−x}Na_{x}Fe_{2}As_{2} for x≥0.24. We then summarize the results of theoretical calculations showing that such a phase is consistent with magnetically driven nematic order.
Results
Experiment
We have conducted a detailed survey of the phase diagram of Ba_{1−x}Na_{x}Fe_{2}As_{2} using neutron and xray powder diffraction^{25}, following our recent investigation of the potassiumdoped compounds^{32}. In both the Kdoped and Nadoped series, the addition of the alkali metal dopes holes into iron dbands and reduces the transition temperature into the stripe phase from 139 K, in the parent compound BaFe_{2}As_{2}, to 0 at x~0.25−0.3. One unusual feature of both series is that the antiferromagnetic and orthorhombic transitions are coincident and firstorder over the entire phase diagram^{33}, an observation that is quite unambiguous since both order parameters are determined from the same neutron powder diffraction measurement.
Details of the synthesis and characterization of the polycrystalline samples and the powder diffraction measurements are given in the Methods section. We provide a comparison of the sample stoichiometries with earlier reports in Supplementary Note 1.
The only region of the sodium series where there are significant departures from the conventional behaviour observed in many ironbased superconductors is at 0.24≤x≤0.28 close to the suppression of the AF/O order. These compounds are all in the region where superconductivity coexists with magnetic order at low temperature. The results are summarized in Fig. 1, where diffractograms are shown for three Bragg reflections at (h,k,l)=(112), and , respectively, using tetragonal reciprocal lattice indices. The (112) reflection is a nuclear Bragg peak that splits when the symmetry is lowered to orthorhombic, while the other two reflections are magnetic Bragg peaks.
At x=0.24 and 0.26, the transition into the C_{2} (Fmmm) phase at T_{N}~70–90 K is clearly evident. However, at T_{r}~40–50 K, there is a second phase transition, not seen at x=0.22 (not shown), at which the orthorhombic splitting collapses and tetragonal C_{4} (I4/mmm) symmetry is restored. The reflection, which shows the onset of stripe SDW order at T_{N}, weakens in intensity in the C_{4} phase, whereas the reflection strengthens considerably. This indicates that there is a strong spin reorientation with respect to the stripe SDW order when tetragonal symmetry is restored at T_{r}. It was not possible to obtain an unambiguous refinement of the C_{4} magnetic structure; hence, we cannot determine whether the reorientation is inplane or outofplane. A full solution will require measurements on single crystals.
At x=0.27 (not shown) and 0.28, the temperature variation of the and reflections show evidence of the same two magnetic transitions at T_{N} and T_{r}, although the orthorhombic splitting is too weak to be detected in the intermediate phase even on a highresolution diffractometer like HRPD.
These observations are summarized in the phase diagram of Fig. 2, which shows that the new phase is confined to doping levels very close to the suppression of stripe SDW order. At x=0.24, the lower transition at T_{r} is very sharp and appears to be firstorder because there is evidence that up to 40% of the sample remains in the C_{2} phase below T_{r}. The C_{2} phase fraction is reduced to 20% at x=0.26. It is not possible to determine whether there is phase coexistence at higher doping. Further details of the coexistence of C_{2} and C_{4} phases at x=0.24 and 0.26 are provided in Supplementary Note 2.
Figure 1 shows that the C_{4} phase competes with the superconductivity because there is a strong suppression of the magnetic peak intensities at temperatures below T_{c}. This is similar to the phase competition between superconductivity and the C_{2} phase seen in the electrondoped superconductors^{34}, but much stronger than the phase competition observed in the Ba_{1−x}K_{x}Fe_{2}As_{2} series^{33}.
Theory
The itinerant description of magnetism in ironbased superconductors is built on the fact that the hole bands are centred around Q_{Γ}=(0, 0) and the electron bands are centred at Q_{X}=(π, 0) and Q_{Y}=(0, π), respectively (Fig. 3a). The spin susceptibility is logarithmically enhanced at momenta connecting the hole and electron pockets, and SDW order develops even if the interaction is weak. The SDW order parameter is in general a combination of the two vector components Δ_{X} and Δ_{Y} with momenta (π, 0) and (0, π), respectively. For a model of perfect Fermi surface nesting (circular hole and electron pockets of equal radii) and only electron–hole interactions, SDW order determines Δ_{X}^{2}+Δ_{Y}^{2} but not the relative magnitudes and directions of Δ_{X} and Δ_{Y}. Away from perfect nesting, the ellipticity of the electron pockets and interactions between the electron bands break the degeneracy and lower the symmetry of the SDW order. Near T_{N}, an analysis within a GinzburgLandau expansion in powers of Δ_{X} and Δ_{Y} shows that fourthorder terms select stripe magnetic order with either Δ_{X}≠0, Δ_{Y}=0 or Δ_{Y}≠0, Δ_{X}=0 (refs 8, 20). Such an order simultaneously reduces the lattice C_{4} symmetry down to C_{2}. The order parameter in the stripe phase is shown schematically in Fig. 3b.
An issue that has not been discussed in detail until now is whether another magnetic ground state, in which both Δ_{X} and Δ_{Y} are nonzero, may appear at a lower temperature, as a result of nonlinear effects. This might happen either via a firstorder transition, in which case the most likely outcome is the state in which Δ_{X}=Δ_{Y} (see Fig. 3c), or via a secondorder transition, in which case the second order parameter appears continuously and likely remains relatively small down to T=0.
To check for a potential second SDW transition, we needed to go beyond the previous GinzburgLandau analysis; hence, we solved nonlinear coupled meanfield equations for Δ_{X} and Δ_{Y} over the entire temperature range and analysed which solution minimizes the free energy. This has revealed new features in the phase diagram not previously identified. In particular, we find that SDW order with Δ_{X}=Δ_{Y}, which breaks O(3) spin symmetry but preserves lattice C_{4} symmetry, does emerge at low T, as the mismatch in hole and electron pocket sizes grows.
We obtained this result by analysing the minimal threeband model with one hole and two electron pockets. For simplicity, we considered parabolic dispersions with
where m_{i} are band masses, ε_{0} is the offset energy and μ is the chemical potential.
The noninteracting Hamiltonian takes the form
where i=1–3 label the bands, the summation over repeated spin indices α is assumed, and we shift the momenta of the fermions near the X and Y Fermi pockets by Q_{X} and Q_{Y}, respectively, writing .
The interaction term in the Hamiltonian _{int} contains all symmetryallowed interactions between lowenergy fermions, which include inter and intraband scattering processes^{35}. We present the explicit form of _{int} in the Supplementary Methods. The meanfield equations on Δ_{X} and Δ_{Y} are obtained by introducing and and using them to decouple fourfermion terms into anomalous quadratic terms with interband ‘hopping’, which depends on Δ_{X} and Δ_{Y}. We diagonalized the quadratic form, reexpressed c_{i,kα} in terms of new operators and obtained a set of two coupled selfconsistent equations for Δ_{X} and Δ_{Y}.
We solved the meanfield equations numerically as a function of two parameters, δ_{0} and δ_{2} (see Supplementary Methods for details). The parameter δ_{0}=2μ represents the mismatch in chemical potentials of the hole and electron pockets (δ_{0}=0 when the electron and hole pockets are identical). δ_{2}=ε_{0}m(m_{x}−m_{y})/(2m_{x}m_{y}) is proportional to the ellipticity of the electron pockets. We focused on the two SDWordered states, on the antiferromagnetic stripe state with Δ_{X}≠0 and Δ_{Y}=0, in which C_{4}symmetry is reduced to C_{2}, and the SDW state with Δ_{X}=Δ_{Y}, in which C_{4}symmetry is preserved. As we said, the two states are degenerate at zero ellipticity and perfect nesting, when δ_{2}=δ_{0}=0. Once the ellipticity becomes nonzero, the stripe state wins immediately below the Néel temperature T_{N}. The C_{4}preserving state (with Δ_{X}=Δ_{Y}) is a local maximum and is unstable at T≤T_{N}.
By solving the equations at lower temperature, we found that, at a finite δ_{0}, the C_{4}preserving state also becomes locally stable below some T<T_{N}, and, at an even lower T<T_{N}, its free energy becomes smaller than that of the stripe phase, that is, at T=T_{r} the system undergoes a firstorder phase transition in which lattice C_{4} symmetry gets restored (see Fig. 3c). Because T_{N} falls as the Fermi surface mismatch δ_{0} increases, the new C_{4}preserving phase in practice exists only in a narrow region of the phase diagram close to the suppression of SDW order, as observed in Fig. 2. We also analysed a fourpocket model with two hole pockets and found another scenario for a second SDW transition. Namely, the AF stripe order Δ_{Y} initially involves only fermions from a hole pocket, which has higher density of states. Below some T<T_{N}, fermions near the remaining hole pocket and near the electron pocket at X, not involved in the initial stripe order, also produce a SDW instability, and the system gradually develops the second order parameter Δ_{X}, which distorts the stripe AF order. The corresponding low Tspin configuration is shown in Fig. 3d. In this case, however, the C_{4} symmetry remains broken at all temperatures. Our experimental data taken as a function of doping are more consistent with a firstorder transition and restoration of C_{4} symmetry, although it is possible that the second scenario is realized under pressure^{30}.
Discussion
We have demonstrated the existence of a wholly new magnetic phase that exists at the boundary between superconductivity and stripe magnetism, an observation that has important implications for the origin of magnetic and structural transitions in the ironbased superconductors. It is important to distinguish these new results from previous observations of a reentrant tetragonal phase in electrondoped compounds, such as BaFe_{2−x}Co_{x}As_{2} (ref. 34). All those transitions were within the superconducting phase and have been shown to result from the competition between superconductivity and stripe SDW order^{36,37}. The reentrant phase that we report here occurs at temperatures that are more than twice as high as T_{c} and so requires a different explanation. However, there is a similar competition between magnetism and superconductivity in the new phase evident from the partial suppression of the ordered magnetic moment below T_{c}.
We are unaware of any model of orbital order that would predict a reentrant nonorbitally ordered phase at lower temperature. However, the prediction of spinnematic models that a C_{4} phase can become degenerate with the C_{2} phase only at higher doping when the hole and electron Fermi surfaces are not as wellmatched in size, and that the stability of the C_{4} phase would be limited to a very narrow region close to the suppression of antiferromagnetism is borne out by the new data.
Our results therefore provide strong evidence for the validity of an itinerant model of nematic order in the ironbased superconductors, in which the orbital reconstruction of the iron 3d states is a consequence of magnetic interactions induced by Fermi surface nesting. Whether nematic order, or at least strong nematic fluctuations, is a prerequisite for superconductivity is another challenge to address in the future.
Methods
Sample synthesis
Mixtures of Ba, Na and FeAs were loaded in alumina tubes, sealed in niobium tubes under argon and sealed again in quartz tubes under vacuum. The mixtures were variously subjected to 3–5 firings between 800 and 850 °C for 2–3 days for each firing, except for Ba_{0.78}Na_{0.22}Fe_{2}As_{2}, which underwent two firings as above, and then was heated for 16 h at 1,000 °C for each of the last two anneals. Between each anneal, the powders were homogenized by grinding in a mortar and pestle. Annealing steps were kept as short as possible, enough to get chemically homogeneous powders while minimizing sodium loss, which is unavoidable. Before the last anneal, a slight amount of NaAs was added to compensate for the loss. The structure and quality of the final black powders were confirmed by xray powder diffraction and magnetization measurements. The magnetization curves of the measured samples are shown in Supplementary Fig. 1.
Powder diffraction
The powder diffraction measurements were performed using two beam lines at the ISIS Pulsed Neutron Source, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, UK: the highresolution powder diffractometer, HRPD, and the coldneutron powder diffractometer, Wish. The high resolution available at HRPD was necessary to resolve the weak orthorhombic splitting, while the high flux of Wish was required to measure the weak magnetic reflections. The same samples were used on both diffractometers within a few days of measurement. The results are summarized in the diffractograms (plots of intensity versus dspacing and temperature), shown in Fig. 1, with additional details provided by Supplementary Fig. 2.
Additional information
How to cite this article: Avci, S. et al. Magnetically driven suppression of nematic order in an ironbased superconductor. Nat. Commun. 5:3845 doi: 10.1038/ncomms4845 (2014).
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Acknowledgements
We are thankful to J. Knolle, R. Fernandes, J. Schmalian, R. Moessner and V. Stanev for useful discussions. This work was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Materials Sciences and Engineering Division (S.A., O.C., J.A., S.R., D.E.B., D.Y.C., M.G.K., J.P.C., J.A.S., H.C., R.O.), which also supported A.V.C. under grant #DEFG02ER46900 (A.V.C.). I.E. acknowledges financial support from the DFG under priority programme SPP 1458 (ER 463/5) and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD PPP USA No. 57051534).
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The neutron and xray diffraction experiments were devised by S.A., O.C., J.M.A., S.R. and R.O. and performed by S.A., O.C., J.M.A. and S.R. with experimental assistance from D.D.K., P.M. and A.D.A. The Rietveld refinements were performed by S.A. and O.C., with additional analysis by D.D.K. and J.M.A. The theoretical calculations were performed by I.E. and A.V.C. The samples were prepared by D.E.B., D.Y.C. and M.G.K. and characterized by J.P.C., J.A.S. and H.C. The manuscript was written by S.A., O.C., J.M.A., I.E., A.V.C. and R.O., and the Supplementary Information was written by J.M.A., I.E. and A.V.C.
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Avci, S., Chmaissem, O., Allred, J. et al. Magnetically driven suppression of nematic order in an ironbased superconductor. Nat Commun 5, 3845 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms4845
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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms4845
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