Phonon-induced rotation of the electronic nematic director in superconducting Bi2Se3

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The doped topological insulator AxBi2Se3, with A={Cu,Sr,Nb}, becomes a nematic superconductor below Tc≈3-4 K. The associated electronic nematic director is described by an angle α and is experimentally manifested in the elliptical shape of the in-plane critical magnetic field Hc2. Because of the threefold rotational symmetry of the lattice, α is expected to align with one of three high-symmetry directions corresponding to the in-plane nearest-neighbor bonds, consistent with a Z3-Potts nematic transition. Here, we show that the nematic coupling to the acoustic phonons, which makes the nematic correlation length tend to diverge along certain directions only, can fundamentally alter this phenomenology in trigonal lattices. Compared to hexagonal lattices, the former possesses a sixth independent elastic constant c14 due to the fact that the in-plane shear strain doublet (ϵxx-ϵyy,-2ϵxy) and the out-of-plane shear strain doublet (2ϵyz,-2ϵzx) transform as the same irreducible representation. We find that, when c14 overcomes a threshold value, which is expected to be the case in doped Bi2Se3, the nematic director α unlocks from the high-symmetry directions due to the competition between the quadratic phonon-mediated interaction and the cubic nematic anharmonicity. This implies the breaking of the residual in-plane twofold rotational symmetry (C2x), resulting in a triclinic phase. We discuss the implications of these findings for the structure of nematic domains, for the shape of the in-plane Hc2 in AxBi2Se3, and for the presence of nodes inside the superconducting state.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number174504
JournalPhysical Review B
Issue number17
StatePublished - May 1 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank J. Schmalian, J. Venderbos, and Z. Wang for fruitful discussions. This work was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences, Materials Sciences and Engineering Division, under Award No. DE-SC0020045.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Physical Society.


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