Synopsis: Magnetism shortly before pairing

A new pnictide-type superconductor is discovered with heavy electrons ordering antiferromagnetically and light electrons in a superconducting state.
Synopsis figure
Credit: H. Mizoguchi et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. (2011)

In an article published in Physical Review Letters, Hiroshi Mizoguchi and collaborators from the Tokyo Institute of Technology and the National Institute for Materials Science in Japan report the discovery of a new pnictide-type superconductor, CeNi0.8Bi2, which exhibits a superconducting transition at around 4K.

Structurally similar to the intensely studied pnictide superconductor LaFeAsO, this material consists of alternating layers of bismuth and CeNiBi. The parent stoichiometric compound CeNiBi2 displays antiferromagnetic order, but not superconductivity. In these materials, interlayer interactions alter the effective mass of the mobile charge carriers that are present in each layer. In the case of CeNi0.8Bi2, Mizoguchi et al. report that light electrons reside in the bismuth layers, while the CeNiBi layers host heavy electrons, with a remarkably large difference between the effective masses of both species. What is particularly interesting in this material is that the heavy electrons order at about 5K to an antiferromagnetic state, while the light carriers pair to form a superconducting state at about 4K. – Alex Klironomos


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