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Nature. 2003 Sep 18;425(6955):271-4.

Quantum critical behaviour in a high-T(c) superconductor.

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Materials Science Centre, University of Groningen, 9747 AG Groningen, The Netherlands.


Quantum criticality is associated with a system composed of a nearly infinite number of interacting quantum degrees of freedom at zero temperature, and it implies that the system looks on average the same regardless of the time- and length scale on which it is observed. Electrons on the atomic scale do not exhibit such symmetry, which can only be generated as a collective phenomenon through the interactions between a large number of electrons. In materials with strong electron correlations a quantum phase transition at zero temperature can occur, and a quantum critical state has been predicted, which manifests itself through universal power-law behaviours of the response functions. Candidates have been found both in heavy-fermion systems and in the high-transition temperature (high-T(c)) copper oxide superconductors, but the reality and the physical nature of such a phase transition are still debated. Here we report a universal behaviour that is characteristic of the quantum critical region. We demonstrate that the experimentally measured phase angle agrees precisely with the exponent of the optical conductivity. This points towards a quantum phase transition of an unconventional kind in the high-T(c) superconductors.


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