Discovery of a strain-stabilised smectic electronic order in LiFeAs
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In many high temperature superconductors, small orthorhombic distortions of the lattice structure result in surprisingly large symmetry breaking of the electronic states and macroscopic properties, an effect often referred to as nematicity. To directly study the impact of symmetry-breaking lattice distortions on the electronic states, using low-temperature scanning tunnelling microscopy we image at the atomic scale the influence of strain-tuned lattice distortions on the correlated electronic states in the iron-based superconductor LiFeAs, a material which in its ground state is tetragonal with four-fold (C4) symmetry. Our experiments uncover a new strain-stabilised modulated phase which exhibits a smectic order in LiFeAs, an electronic state which not only breaks rotational symmetry but also reduces translational symmetry. We follow the evolution of the superconducting gap from the unstrained material with C4 symmetry through the new smectic phase with two-fold (C2) symmetry and charge-density wave order to a state where superconductivity is completely suppressed.
Yim , C M , Trainer , C , Aluru , R , Chi , S , Hardy , W N , Liang , R , Bonn , D & Wahl , P 2018 , ' Discovery of a strain-stabilised smectic electronic order in LiFeAs ' , Nature Communications , vol. 9 , 2602 . https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-04909-y
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DescriptionCT, CMY and PW acknowledge funding from EPSRC through EP/L505079/1 and EP/I031014/1. Research at UBC was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, and the Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute.
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