Have Cuprates Earned Their Stripes?

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Science  26 Mar 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5666, pp. 1985-1986
DOI: 10.1126/science.1096341

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Physicists are struggling to understand how electrons behave in cuprate superconductors, and the outcome may resolve the question of how these materials become superconducting. In his Perspective, Norman discusses work reported in the same issue by Vershinin et al. in which scanning tunneling microscopy was used to study electrons in a cuprate above the superconducting transition temperature. The researchers found that the material displays a charge modulation that gives rise to a checkerboard pattern of electrons instead of a stripe pattern seen in other experiments. More needs to be learned about this system, but it indicates that a proper theory of high-temperature superconductivity may lie somewhere between a localized electron picture and one in which the electrons are itinerant.