PerspectivePhysics

Magnetic fields make waves in cuprates

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Science  20 Nov 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6263, pp. 914-915
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad3279

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Summary

Physicists have been struggling for nearly 30 years to pinpoint the unusual electronic states of the copper oxides (or cuprates) that make these materials superconducting at high critical temperatures (Tc). Recently, it appears that consensus may be finally emerging on the presence of periodic modulations in the electronic density, a phenomenon called charge density wave (CDW) or, more broadly, charge order—and now considered to be a crucial piece of the cuprate puzzle. But how this piece exactly fits into the puzzle remains unclear. On page 949 of this issue, Gerber et al. (1) report the observation that the CDW becomes coherent in the three dimensions of space when subjected to high magnetic fields. These latest results provide invaluable information for elucidating why charge order occurs and why superconductivity cares about it.