Scanning-tunnelling spectra of cuprates
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The study of bosonic modes that couple to the charge carriers is a key element in understanding superconductivity. Using atomic-resolution scanning-tunnelling microscopy (STM) to extract the spectrum of these modes in the high-temperature superconductor Bi2Sr2CaCu2O(8+delta), Lee et al. find a mode whose frequency does not depend on doping but that changes on isotopic substitution of 16O with 18O. From this, they infer a role for lattice modes (phonons). However, examination of their data reveals a weaker, but distinct, feature that has all the characteristics of the magnetic excitation identified as the bosonic mode in other competing experiments. We therefore suggest that the lattice mode seen by Lee et al. is not relevant to superconductivity and is due to inelastic tunnelling through the insulating oxide layer.
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