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The Unique Properties of Superconductivity in Cuprates


Copper oxides are the only materials that have transition temperatures, T c, well above the boiling point of liquid nitrogen, with a maximum \(T_{\mathrm {c}}^{\mathrm {m}}\) of 162 K under pressure. Their structure is layered, with one to several CuO2 planes, and upon hole doping, their transition temperature follows a dome-shaped curve with a maximum of \(T_{\mathrm {c}}^{\mathrm {m}}\). In the underdoped regime, i.e., below \(T_{\mathrm {c}}^{\mathrm {m}}\), a pseudogap Δ* ∝ T* is found, with T* always being larger than T c, a property unique to the copper oxides. In the superconducting state, Cooper pairs (two holes with antiparallel spins) are formed that exhibit coherence lengths on the order of a lattice distance in the CuO2 plane and one order of magnitude less perpendicular to it. Their macroscopic wave function is parallel to the CuO2 plane near 100 % d at their surface, but only 75 % d and 25 % s in the bulk, and near 100 % s perpendicular to the plane in yttrium barium copper oxide (YBCO) [1]. There are two gaps with the same T c [2]. As function of doping, the oxygen isotope effect is novel and can be quantitatively accounted for by a vibronic theory or by the presence of bipolarons [2, 3]. These cuprates are intrinsically heterogeneous in a dynamic way. In terms of quasiparticles, bipolarons are present at low doping and aggregate upon cooling [2] so that probably ramified clusters and/or stripes are formed, leading over to a more Fermi liquid-type behavior at large carrier concentrations.

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Charlotte Bolliger of the Publications group at the IBM Research - Zurich lab was of great help in editing this effort, improving its text, and redrawing some of the panels and K. Keller in critically reading the manuscript.

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Müller, K.A. The Unique Properties of Superconductivity in Cuprates. J Supercond Nov Magn 27, 2163–2179 (2014).

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  • Superconductivity
  • Cuprates