Distinguishing spin-orbit coupling and nematic order in the electronic spectrum of iron-based superconductors

Rafael M. Fernandes, Oskar Vafek

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The low-energy electronic states of the iron-based superconductors are strongly affected by both spin-orbit coupling and, when present, by the nematic order. These two effects have different physical origins, yet they can lead to similar gap features in the electronic spectrum. Here we show how to disentangle them experimentally in the iron superconductors with one Fe plane per unit cell. Although the splitting of the low-energy doublet at the Brillouin zone center (Γ point) can be due to either the spin-orbit coupling or the nematic order, or both, the degeneracy of each of the doublet states at the zone corner (M point) is protected by the space-group symmetry even when spin-orbit coupling is taken into account. Therefore, any splitting at M must be due to lowering of the crystal symmetry, such as due to the nematic order. We further analyze a microscopic tight-binding model with two different contributions to the nematic order: dxz/dyz on-site energy anisotropy and the dxy hopping anisotropy. We find that a precise determination of the former, which has been widely used to characterize the nematic phase, requires a simultaneous measurement of the splittings of the Γ-point doublet and at the two low-energy M-point doublets. We also discuss the impact of twin domains and show how our results shed new light on ARPES measurements in the normal state of these materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number214514
JournalPhysical Review B - Condensed Matter and Materials Physics
Issue number21
StatePublished - Dec 12 2014

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© 2014 American Physical Society.


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