Decoding Spatial Complexity in Strongly Correlated Electronic Systems
This event is part of the Physics Department Colloquia Series.
Inside the metals, semiconductors, and magnets of our everyday experience, electrons are uniformly distributed throughout the material. By contrast, electrons often form clumpy patterns inside of strongly correlated electronic systems (SCES) such as colossal magnetoresistance materials and high temperature superconductors. In copper-oxide based high temperature superconductors, scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) has detected an electron nematic on the surface of the material, in which the electrons form nanoscale structures which break the rotational symmetry of the host crystal. These structures may hold the key to unlocking the mystery of high temperature superconductivity in these materials, but only if the nematic also exists throughout the entire bulk of the material.
Using new methods we have developed for decoding these surface structures, we find that the nematic indeed persists throughout the bulk of the material. We furthermore find that the intricate pattern formation is set by a delicate balance between disorder, interactions, and material anisotropy, leading to a fractal nature of the cluster pattern. The methods we have developed can be extended to many other surface probes and materials, enabling surface probes to determine whether surface structures are confined only to the surface, or whether they extend throughout the material.