Research ArticlePHYSICS

Kinetic approach to superconductivity hidden behind a competing order

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Science Advances  05 Oct 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 10, eaau3489
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau3489


Exploration for superconductivity is one of the research frontiers in condensed matter physics. In strongly correlated electron systems, the emergence of superconductivity is often inhibited by the formation of a thermodynamically more stable magnetic/charge order. Thus, to develop the superconductivity as the thermodynamically most stable state, the free-energy balance between the superconductivity and the competing order has been controlled mainly by changing thermodynamic parameters, such as the physical/chemical pressure and carrier density. However, such a thermodynamic approach may not be the only way to materialize the superconductivity. We present a new kinetic approach to avoiding the competing order and thereby inducing persistent superconductivity. In the transition-metal dichalcogenide IrTe2 as an example, by using current pulse–based rapid cooling of up to ~107 K s−1, we successfully kinetically avoid a first-order phase transition to a competing charge order and uncover metastable superconductivity hidden behind. Because the electronic states at low temperatures depend on the history of thermal quenching, electric pulse applications enable nonvolatile and reversible switching of the metastable superconductivity, a unique advantage of the kinetic approach. Thus, our findings provide a new approach to developing and manipulating superconductivity beyond the framework of thermodynamics.

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