Fall 2021 Physics Colloquium, The nickel age of superconductivity.
Professor Antia Sanchez Botana, Department of Physics, Arizona State University
Abstract: The physics behind high-temperature superconductivity in cuprates remains a defining problem in condensed matter physics. Among the myriad approaches to addressing this problem has been the study of alternative transition metal oxides with similar structures and electron count. After a 30 year quest, a non-cuprate compound with a cuprate-like structure that exhibits superconductivity has been found: hole-doped NdNiO2. Given that this material is one of the members of a larger series of layered nickelates, this result opens up the possibility of finding a new family of unconventional superconductors. By means of electronic structure calculations, we have analyzed the similarities and differences between this family of low-valence planar nickelates and cuprates. Even though these nickel oxide materials possess a combination of traits that are widely considered as crucial ingredients for superconductivity in cuprates (a square-planar nature, combined with the appropriate 3d-electron count, and a large orbital polarization) they also exhibit some important differences (a larger p-d energy splitting, and lack of magnetism in the parent compounds). Our results show that low-valence layered nickelates offer a new way of interrogating the cuprate phase diagram and are singularly promising candidates for unconventional superconductivity.