In most unconventional and high-temperature superconductors, superconductivity emerges as a nearby symmetry-breaking phase is suppressed by chemical doping or pressure1,2,3,4,5,6,7. This has led to the belief that the fluctuations associated with the symmetry-breaking phase are beneficial, if not responsible, for the superconducting pairing8,9. A direct test to verify this hypothesis is to observe a decrease of the superconducting critical temperature (Tc) by applying the symmetry-breaking conjugate field that suppresses the dynamic fluctuations of the competing order. However, most of the competing phases in unconventional superconductors break translational symmetry, requiring a spatially modulated conjugate field that is difficult to realize experimentally. Here, we show that anisotropic strain, the conjugate field of nematicity, reduces the Tc of an iron pnictide. For optimally doped samples we show a fivefold reduction of Tc with less than one per cent of strain. For underdoped samples, Tc becomes zero yielding a fully metallic ground state. In addition to providing direct evidence of the role played by the nematic fluctuations in the formation of the superconducting state, these results demonstrate tunable mechanical control of a high-temperature superconductor, an important step forward for technological applications of superconductivity.
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The data that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request. Source data are provided with this paper.
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We thank X. Xu, D. Cobden, B. Spivak, S. Kivelson and C. Xu for discussions. This work was mainly supported by NSF MRSEC at UW (DMR-1719797) and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s EPiQS Initiative, grant GBMF6759 to J.-H.C. The development of strain instrumentation is supported as part of Programmable Quantum Materials, an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the US Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences (BES), under award DE-SC0019443. The integration of X-ray diffraction with in situ strain is supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator Program under grant FA9550-17-1-0217 and the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program Award FA9550-19-1-0180. J.L. acknowledges support from the National Science Foundation under grant no. DMR-1848269. J.-H.C. acknowledges the support of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the State of Washington funded Clean Energy Institute.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Nature Physics thanks Samuel Lederer, Takasada Shibauchi and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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x–T phase diagram data, zero-strain ρ versus T data, ρ versus T data under various compressive and tensile strains.
Real and imaginary parts of the susceptometer coil mutual inductance versus strain, ρ versus strain for various temperatures, orthorhombicity and resistivity versus strain (T = 8 K), T–ε phase diagram data.
ρ versus T data for various strains, Tc versus B2g strain, normalized Tc versus B2g strain, α and –2m66 versus doping.
Normalized response of superconductivity to strain for various compounds.
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Malinowski, P., Jiang, Q., Sanchez, J.J. et al. Suppression of superconductivity by anisotropic strain near a nematic quantum critical point. Nat. Phys. 16, 1189–1193 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41567-020-0983-9
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