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Topological Defects Coupling Smectic Modulations to Intra–Unit-Cell Nematicity in Cuprates

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Science  22 Jul 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6041, pp. 426-430
DOI: 10.1126/science.1201082

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Abstract

We study the coexisting smectic modulations and intra–unit-cell nematicity in the pseudogap states of underdoped Bi2Sr2CaCu2O8+δ. By visualizing their spatial components separately, we identified 2π topological defects throughout the phase-fluctuating smectic states. Imaging the locations of large numbers of these topological defects simultaneously with the fluctuations in the intra–unit-cell nematicity revealed strong empirical evidence for a coupling between them. From these observations, we propose a Ginzburg-Landau functional describing this coupling and demonstrate how it can explain the coexistence of the smectic and intra–unit-cell broken symmetries and also correctly predict their interplay at the atomic scale. This theoretical perspective can lead to unraveling the complexities of the phase diagram of cuprate high-critical-temperature superconductors.

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