Superconductivity in the proximity of a quantum critical point

Change log
Logg, Peter William 

In a many-body fermionic system, the suppression of continuous transitions to absolute zero can result in a low temperature quantum fluid which deviates strongly from typical metallic behaviour; unconventional superconductivity can be induced by the strange metal region surrounding the zero-temperature phase transition. In this thesis we focus on three systems which demonstrate a highly tunable phase transition, with the aim of pushing them toward the border of a zero-temperature phase transition, and potentially superconductivity.

CeAgSb2 is a uniaxial 4f ferromagnet, where physical pressure or a transverse field may be used to tune the magnetic transition towards T = 0 K. Our investigations, however, did not reveal the presence of superconductivity. It is likely that the field tuned transition does not correspond to a true critical point, whilst the high pressure region may be occupied by an antiferromagnetic phase, with the true critical point at higher pressures. However, other interesting features emerge in the electrical resistivity and AC-susceptibility, along with novel thermodynamic signatures linking the magnetisation to the specific heat.

The doping series Lu(1-x)YxFe2Ge2 shows an antiferromagnetic transition which is suppressed to absolute zero at a critical concentration x_c=0.2. YFe2Ge2 displays anomalous low temperature behaviour consistent with the proximity to quantum critical fluctuations, along with a superconducting transition which appears in the electrical resistivity beneath a critical temperature of T_c ~ 1.7 K. Using low temperature DC magnetisation measurements, we show that this is a bulk effect, and that the superconductivity in YFe2Ge2 is of type-II. The thermodynamic and BCS properties of the superconducting phase are analysed in line with the parameters we extract experimentally.

The superconducting 3-4-13 stannides (Ca,Sr)3Ir4Sn13 show a high temperature structural transition which may be suppressed by the application of hydrostatic pressure or effective chemical pressure. A superconducting dome is found, which appears to peak near where the structural transition extrapolates to zero temperature. Anomalous exponents are seen in the electrical resistivity over a wide temperature range. We investigate the influence of pressure on the superconducting critical temperature in Ca3Ir4Sn13 and the related compound Co3Ca4Sn13, along with an analysis of the upper critical field and flux-line phenomena in Ca3Ir4Sn13 and Sr3Ir4Sn13.

physics, low temperature physics, magnetism, many body physics, pressure, quantum criticality, superconductivity, strongly correlated electrons
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
This work was supported by an EPSRC PhD studentship