Research Article

Revealing hidden spin-momentum locking in a high-temperature cuprate superconductor

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Science  14 Dec 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6420, pp. 1271-1275
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao0980

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Revealing spin-orbit coupling in a cuprate

Strong coupling between the spin and orbital degrees of freedom is crucial in generating the exotic band structure of topological insulators. The combination of spin-orbit coupling with electronic correlations could lead to exotic effects; however, these two types of interactions are rarely found to be strong in the same material. Gotlieb et al. used spin- and angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy to map out the spin texture in the cuprate Bi2212. Surprisingly, they found signatures of spin-momentum locking, not unlike that seen in topological insulators. Thus, in addition to strong electronic correlations, this cuprate also has considerable spin-orbit coupling.

Science, this issue p. 1271


Cuprate superconductors have long been thought of as having strong electronic correlations but negligible spin-orbit coupling. Using spin- and angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy, we discovered that one of the most studied cuprate superconductors, Bi2212, has a nontrivial spin texture with a spin-momentum locking that circles the Brillouin zone center and a spin-layer locking that allows states of opposite spin to be localized in different parts of the unit cell. Our findings pose challenges for the vast majority of models of cuprates, such as the Hubbard model and its variants, where spin-orbit interaction has been mostly neglected, and open the intriguing question of how the high-temperature superconducting state emerges in the presence of this nontrivial spin texture.

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