Proximity of iron pnictide superconductors to a quantum tricritical point

Nat Commun. 2011 Jul 19;2:398. doi: 10.1038/ncomms1407.


In several materials, unconventional superconductivity appears nearby a quantum phase transition where long-range magnetic order vanishes as a function of a control parameter like charge doping, pressure or magnetic field. The nature of the quantum phase transition is of key relevance, because continuous transitions are expected to favour superconductivity, due to strong fluctuations. Discontinuous transitions, on the other hand, are not expected to have a similar role. Here we determine the nature of the magnetic quantum phase transition, which occurs as a function of doping, in the iron-based superconductor LaFeAsO(1-x)F(x). We use constrained density functional calculations that provide ab initio coefficients for a Landau order parameter analysis. The outcome is intriguing, as this material turns out to be remarkably close to a quantum tricritical point, where the transition changes from continuous to discontinuous, and several susceptibilities diverge simultaneously. We discuss the consequences for superconductivity and the phase diagram.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arsenicals / chemistry*
  • Electric Conductivity*
  • Iron / chemistry*
  • Lanthanum / chemistry*
  • Magnetics
  • Pressure
  • Quantum Theory*
  • Temperature


  • Arsenicals
  • Lanthanum
  • Iron