Publication Type:Journal Article
Source:Nature Physics, Volume 17, p.903-908 (2021)
The interplay of different electronic phases underlies the physics of unconventional superconductors. One of the most intriguing examples is a high-temperature superconductor, FeTe1\thinspace–\thinspacexSex (refs. 1–11). This superconductor undergoes both a topological transition3,4, linked to the electronic band inversion, and an electronic nematic phase transition, associated with rotation symmetry breaking, around the same Se composition where the superconducting transition temperature peaks12,13. In this regime, nematic fluctuations and symmetry-breaking strain could be important, but this is yet to be fully explored. Using spectroscopic-imaging scanning tunnelling microscopy, we study the electronic nematic transition in FeTe1\thinspace–\thinspacexSex as a function of composition. Near the critical Se composition, we find electronic nematicity in nanoscale regions. The superconducting coherence peaks are suppressed in areas where static nematic order is the strongest. By analysing atomic displacement in scanning tunnelling microscopy topographs, we find that small anisotropic strain can give rise to these strongly nematic localized regions. Our experiments reveal a tendency of FeTe1\thinspace–\thinspacexSex, near x\thinspace≈\thinspace0.45, to form puddles hosting static nematic order, suggestive of nematic fluctuations pinned by structural inhomogeneity, and demonstrate the effect of anisotropic strain on superconductivity in this regime.