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Discovery of a Cooper-pair density wave state in a transition-metal dichalcogenide

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Imaging an exotic state

Among the most intriguing of the many phases of cuprate superconductors is the so-called pair density wave (PDW) state. PDW is characterized by a spatially modulated density of Cooper pairs and can be detected with a scanning tunneling microscope equipped with a superconducting tip. Liu et al. used Josephson tunneling microscopy, modified for the task, to detect PDW in niobium diselenide, a superconductor with a layered hexagonal structure. The PDW state is expected to appear in other transition metal dichalcogenides as well.

Science, abd4607, this issue p. 1447

Abstract

Pair density wave (PDW) states are defined by a spatially modulating superconductive order parameter. To search for such states in transition-metal dichalcogenides (TMDs), we used high-speed atomic-resolution scanned Josephson-tunneling microscopy. We detected a PDW state whose electron-pair density and energy gap modulate spatially at the wave vectors of the preexisting charge density wave (CDW) state. The PDW couples linearly to both the s-wave superconductor and the CDW and exhibits commensurate domains with discommensuration phase slips at the boundaries, conforming those of the lattice-locked commensurate CDW. Nevertheless, we found a global

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δΦ±2π/3

phase difference between the PDW and CDW states, possibly owing to the Cooper-pair wave function orbital content. Our findings presage pervasive PDW physics in the many other TMDs that sustain both CDW and superconducting states.

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