Van der Waals-Zeeman Colloquium

Tuesday, 19 Dec 2006, 15:00 h

From quantum critical magnets to superconducting graphite

Siddharth S. Saxena
Quantum Matter Group, Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB3 0HE, United Kingdom

This talk will discuss pressure induced superconductivity in the vicinity of magnetic quantum phase transitions. It will focus on how the search for magnetically mediated superconductivity in low dimensional systems led to new graphite superconductors. Low dimensionality is generally considered as a necessary ingredient for high superconducting transition temperatures. Surprisingly, perhaps, systems based on graphite have received little attention in this context. Introducing metal atoms between the carbon layers can tune the interlayer spacing and charging of the graphite host through a variety of electronic ground states. One such ground state is superconductivity, which is not present in pure graphite. Here we report the discovery of superconductivity in the intercalation compounds C6Yb and C6Ca, with transition temperatures of 6.5 and 11.5 K, respectively. These critical temperatures are unprecedented in graphitic systems and have not been explained exclusively by a simple phonon mechanism for the superconductivity. This discovery has already stimulated several proposals for the superconducting mechanism that range from coupling by way of the intercalant phonons through to acoustic plasmons. It also points towards the potential of superconductivity in other graphitic systems such as carbon nanotubes.