Anomalous surface lattice dynamics in the low-temperature phase of Ba(Fe1-xCox)2As2

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In complex materials, how correlation between charge, spin, and lattice affects the emergent phenomena remains unclear. The newly discovered iron-based high-temperature superconductors and related compounds present to the community a prototype family of materials, where interplay between charge, spin, and lattice degrees of freedom can be explored. With the occurrence of structural, magnetic, and superconducting transitions in the bulk of these materials, creating a surface will change the delicate balance between these phases, resulting in new behavior. A surface lattice dynamics study on (001) Ba(Fe(1-x)Co(x))(2)As(2), through electron energy loss spectroscopy measurements, reveals unusual temperature dependence of both the phonon frequency and line width in the low-temperature orthorhombic phase. The rate of change of phonon frequency with temperature is gigantic, two orders of magnitude larger than in the bulk. This behavior cannot be explained using conventional models of anharmonicity or electron-phonon coupling; instead, it requires that a large surface-spin-charge-lattice coupling be included. Furthermore, the higher surface-phase-transition temperature driven by surface stabilization of the low-temperature orthorhombic phase seems to turn the first-order transition (bulk) into the second-order type, equivalent to what is observed in the bulk by applying a uniaxial pressure. Such equivalence indicates that the surface mirrors the bulk under extreme conditions.

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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

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