A notable aspect of high-temperature superconductivity in the copper oxides is the unconventional nature of the underlying paired-electron state. A direct manifestation of the unconventional state is a pairing energy--that is, the energy required to remove one electron from the superconductor that varies (between zero and a maximum value) as a function of momentum, or wavevector: the pairing energy for conventional superconductors is wavevector-independent. The wavefunction describing the superconducting state will include the pairing not only of charges, but also of the spins of the paired charges. Each pair is usually in the form of a spin singlet, so there will also be a pairing energy associated with transforming the spin singlet into the higher-energy spin triplet form without necessarily unbinding the charges. Here we use inelastic neutron scattering to determine the wavevector-dependence of spin pairing in La(2-x)Sr(x)CuO4, the simplest high-temperature superconductor. We find that the spin pairing energy (or 'spin gap') is wavevector independent, even though superconductivity significantly alters the wavevector dependence of the spin fluctuations at higher energies.
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