Long-Range Incommensurate Charge Fluctuations in (Y,Nd)Ba2Cu3O6+x

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Science  17 Aug 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6096, pp. 821-825
DOI: 10.1126/science.1223532


The concept that superconductivity competes with other orders in cuprate superconductors has become increasingly apparent, but obtaining direct evidence with bulk-sensitive probes is challenging. We have used resonant soft x-ray scattering to identify two-dimensional charge fluctuations with an incommensurate periodicity of ~3.2 lattice units in the copper-oxide planes of the superconductors (Y,Nd)Ba2Cu3O6+x, with hole concentrations of 0.09 to 0.13 per planar Cu ion. The intensity and correlation length of the fluctuation signal increase strongly upon cooling down to the superconducting transition temperature (Tc); further cooling below Tc abruptly reverses the divergence of the charge correlations. In combination with earlier observations of a large gap in the spin excitation spectrum, these data indicate an incipient charge density wave instability that competes with superconductivity.