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Electron-Phonon-Driven Three-Dimensional Metallicity in an Insulating Cuprate

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6409-6416
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume117
Issue number12
DOIs
Published24 Mar 2020

King's Authors

Abstract

The role of the crystal lattice for the electronic properties of cuprates and other high-temperature superconductors remains controversial despite decades of theoretical and experimental efforts. While the paradigm of strong electronic correlations suggests a purely electronic mechanism behind the insulator-to-metal transition, recently the mutual enhancement of the electron-electron and the electron-phonon interaction and its relevance to the formation of the ordered phases have also been emphasized. Here, we combine polarization-resolved ultrafast optical spectroscopy and state-of-the-art dynamical mean-field theory to show the importance of the crystal lattice in the breakdown of the correlated insulating state in an archetypal undoped cuprate. We identify signatures of electron-phonon coupling to specific fully symmetric optical modes during the buildup of a three-dimensional (3D) metallic state that follows charge photodoping. Calculations for coherently displaced crystal structures along the relevant phonon coordinates indicate that the insulating state is remarkably unstable toward metallization despite the seemingly large charge-transfer energy scale. This hitherto unobserved insulator-to-metal transition mediated by fully symmetric lattice modes can find extensive application in a plethora of correlated solids.

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