Detection of a Cooper-pair density wave in Bi2Sr2CaCu2O8+x

Nature. 2016 Apr 21;532(7599):343-7. doi: 10.1038/nature17411. Epub 2016 Apr 13.


The quantum condensate of Cooper pairs forming a superconductor was originally conceived as being translationally invariant. In theory, however, pairs can exist with finite momentum Q, thus generating a state with a spatially modulated Cooper-pair density. Such a state has been created in ultracold (6)Li gas but never observed directly in any superconductor. It is now widely hypothesized that the pseudogap phase of the copper oxide superconductors contains such a 'pair density wave' state. Here we report the use of nanometre-resolution scanned Josephson tunnelling microscopy to image Cooper pair tunnelling from a d-wave superconducting microscope tip to the condensate of the superconductor Bi2Sr2CaCu2O8+x. We demonstrate condensate visualization capabilities directly by using the Cooper-pair density variations surrounding zinc impurity atoms and at the Bi2Sr2CaCu2O8+x crystal supermodulation. Then, by using Fourier analysis of scanned Josephson tunnelling images, we discover the direct signature of a Cooper-pair density modulation at wavevectors QP ≈ (0.25, 0)2π/a0 and (0, 0.25)2π/a0 in Bi2Sr2CaCu2O8+x. The amplitude of these modulations is about five per cent of the background condensate density and their form factor exhibits primarily s or s' symmetry. This phenomenology is consistent with Ginzburg-Landau theory when a charge density wave with d-symmetry form factor and wavevector QC = QP coexists with a d-symmetry superconductor; it is also predicted by several contemporary microscopic theories for the pseudogap phase.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.