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Discovery in new material raises questions about theoretical models of superconductivity

March 10, 2017

The U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory has successfully created the first pure, single-crystal sample of a new iron arsenide superconductor, CaKFe4As4, and studies of this material have called into question some long-standing theoretical models of superconductivity.

The material is notable for having the high superconducting temperature of 35K without the need for small amounts of additional elements (such as cobalt or nickel), called dopants.

"That is important because dopants, that were previously used to induce superconductivity, also interfere with superconductivity and other important physical properties of materials" said Adam Kaminski, Ames Laboratory scientist and professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Iowa State University. "This material gave us an excellent opportunity to study superconductivity in pristine samples without the interference of dopants."

Using high resolution angle resolved photoemission spectroscopy and density functional theory, researchers were able to measure the superconducting gap in areas of the momentum space that were previously inaccessible in other materials, and found that their results contradicted the widely accepted antiferromagnetic fluctuation model.

"Our data obtained from samples of pristine iron-arsenic superconductor represents a big deviation from previous studies of doped samples and questions some well-established theories," said Kaminski. "It means that the predictions of previous models are at only partly valid, and there many aspects that are not completely understood. What our work has achieved is to create a new clean avenue of research, towards finding a general model to explain the behavior of these novel superconductors."
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The research is further discussed in a paper, "Enhancement of the Superconducting Gap by Nesting in CaKFe4As4: A New High Temperature Superconductor", authored by Daixiang Mou, Tai Kong, William R. Meier, Felix Lochner, Lin-Lin Wang, Qisheng Lin, Yun We, S.L. Bud'ko, Ilya Eremin, D.D. Johnson, P.C. Canfield, and Adam Kaminski; and published in Physical Review Letters.

The research was conducted at Ames Laboratory and Institut fur Theoretische Physik III, Ruhr Universität Bochum, Germany.

The work was supported by the U.S. Department of Department of Energy's Office of Science.

Ames Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science national laboratory operated by Iowa State University. Ames Laboratory creates innovative materials, technologies and energy solutions. We use our expertise, unique capabilities and interdisciplinary collaborations to solve global problems.

DOE's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

DOE/Ames Laboratory

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