Lighting up superconducting stripes

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Science  02 Feb 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6375, pp. 519
DOI: 10.1126/science.aar5254

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Cuprate superconductors display a plethora of complex phases as a function of temperature and carrier concentration, the understanding of which could provide clues into the mechanism of superconductivity. For example, when about one-eighth of the conduction electrons are removed from the copper oxygen planes in cuprates such as La2−xBaxCuO4 (LBCO), the doped holes (missing electrons) organize into one-dimensional stripes (1). The bulk superconducting transition temperature (Tc) is greatly reduced, and just above Tc, electrical transport perpendicular to the planes (along the c axis) becomes resistive, but parallel to the copper oxygen planes, resistivity remains zero for a range of temperatures (2). It was proposed a decade ago (3) that this anisotropic behavior is caused by pair density waves (PDWs); superconducting Cooper pairs exist along the stripes within the planes but cannot tunnel to the adjacent layers. On page 575 of this issue, Rajasekaran et al. (4) now report detection of this state in LBCO using nonlinear reflection of high-intensity terahertz (THz) light.