The nature of the charge density waves in under-doped YBa$_2$Cu$_3$O$_{6.54}$ revealed by X-ray measurements of the ionic displacements

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • J. Chang
  • L. Bouchenoire
  • S. D. Brown
  • Ruixing Liang
  • D. Bonn
  • W. N. Hardy
  • N. B. Christensen
  • M. v. Zimmermann
  • M. Huecker
  • S. M. Hayden

Colleges, School and Institutes


All underdoped high-temperature cuprate superconductors appear to exhibit charge density wave (CDW) order, but both the underlying symmetry breaking and the origin of the CDW remain unclear. We use X-ray diffraction to determine the microscopic structure of the CDW in an archetypical cuprate YBa$_2$Cu$_3$O$_{6.54}$ at its superconducting transition temperature Tc ~ 60 K. We find that the CDWs present in this material break the mirror symmetry of the CuO2 bilayers. The ionic displacements in a CDW have two components: one perpendicular to the CuO$_2$ planes, and another parallel to these planes, which is out of phase with the first. The largest displacements are those of the planar oxygen atoms and are perpendicular to the CuO$_2$ planes. Our results allow many electronic properties of the underdoped cuprates to be understood. For instance, the CDW will lead to local variations in the doping (or electronic structure) giving an explicit explanation of the appearance of density-wave states with broken symmetry in scanning tunnelling microscopy (STM) and soft X-ray measurements.


Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2015


  • cond-mat.supr-con