Axial Oxygen-Centered Lattice Instabilities and High-Temperature Superconductivity

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Science  15 Jun 1990:
Vol. 248, Issue 4961, pp. 1394-1398
DOI: 10.1126/science.248.4961.1394


Copper K-edge x-ray absorption data indicate that an axial oxygen-centered lattice instability accompanying the 93 K superconducting transition in YBa2Cu3O7 is of a pseudo-(anti)ferroelectric type, in that it appears to involve the softening of a double potential well into a structure in which the difference between the two copper-oxygen distances and the barrier height have both decreased. This softer structure is present only at temperatures within a fluctuation region around the transition. A similar process involving the analogous axial oxygen atom also accompanies the superconducting transition in T1Ba2Ca3Cu4O11, where the superconducting transition temperature Tc is ~120 K. The mean square relative displacement of this oxygen atom in YBa2Cu3O7 is also specifically affected by a reduction in the oxygen content and by the substitution of cobalt for copper, providing further evidence for the sensitivity of the displacement to additional factors that also influence the superconductivity. On the basis of the implied coupling of this ionic motion to the superconductivity, a scenario for high-temperature superconductivity is presented in which both phonon and electronic (charge transfer) channels are synergistically involved.

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