Evolution from unconventional spin density wave to superconductivity and a novel gap-like phase in NaFe1-xCoxAs

Physics – Condensed Matter – Superconductivity

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Scientific paper

Similar to the cuprate high TC superconductors, the iron pnictide superconductors also lie in close proximity to a magnetically ordered phase. A central debate concerning the superconducting mechanism is whether the local magnetic moments play an indispensable role or the itinerant electron description is sufficient. A key step for resolving this issue is to acquire a comprehensive picture regarding the nature of various phases and interactions in the iron compounds. Here we report the doping, temperature, and spatial evolutions of the electronic structure of NaFe1-xCoxAs studied by scanning tunneling microscopy. The spin density wave gap in the parent state is observed for the first time, which shows a strongly asymmetric lineshape that is incompatible with the conventional Fermi surface nesting scenario. The optimally doped sample exhibits a single, symmetric energy gap, but in the overdoped regime another asymmetric gap-like feature emerges near the Fermi level. This novel gap-like phase coexists with superconductivity in the ground state, persists deep into the normal state, and shows strong spatial variations. The characteristics of the three distinct low energy states, in conjunction with the peculiar high energy spectra, suggest that the coupling between the local moments and itinerant electrons is the fundamental driving force for the phases and phase transitions in the iron pnictides.

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