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Bi-directional ultrafast electric-field gating of interlayer charge transport in a cuprate superconductor


In cuprate superconductors, tunnelling between planes makes three-dimensional superconductive transport possible. However, the interlayer tunnelling amplitude is reduced when an order-parameter-phase gradient between planes is established. As such, interlayer superconductivity along the c-axis can be weakened if a strong electric field is applied along the c-axis. In this Letter, we use high-field single-cycle terahertz pulses to gate interlayer coupling in La1.84Sr0.16CuO4. We induce ultrafast oscillations between superconducting and resistive states and switch the plasmon response on and off, without reducing the density of Cooper pairs. In-plane superconductivity remains unperturbed, revealing a non-equilibrium state in which the dimensionality of the superconductivity is time-dependent. The gating frequency is determined by the electric field strength. Non-dissipative, bi-directional gating of superconductivity is of interest for device applications in ultrafast nanoelectronics and represents an example of how nonlinear terahertz physics can benefit nanoplasmonics and active metamaterials.

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Figure 1: Equilibrium optical properties of La1.84Sr0.16CuO4.
Figure 2: Characterization of pump and probe pulses.
Figure 3: Time-dependent optical conductivity.
Figure 4: Ultrafast electric field gating.


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Research at the University of Oxford was supported by a 2004 European Young Investigator Award, by the Royal Society through the ‘Paul Instrument Fund’ and by the EPSRC under the program ‘Next Generation Facility Users’. Research at the MPSD-CFEL in Hamburg was funded through core support by the Max Planck Society and the University of Hamburg.

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A.C. conceived the project. A.D. designed and executed the experiment and analysed the data. A.D. and A.C. interpreted the data. M.C.H., D.F. and J.C.P. assisted in the experimental realization. S.P., T.T. and H.T. grew the samples.

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Correspondence to A. Dienst or A. Cavalleri.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Dienst, A., Hoffmann, M., Fausti, D. et al. Bi-directional ultrafast electric-field gating of interlayer charge transport in a cuprate superconductor. Nature Photon 5, 485–488 (2011).

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