The ladder-chain compound (Sr, Ca)14Cu24O41 is a semiconductor at ambient pressure, but becomes a bulk superconductor above the pressure of about 3 GPa. Since the compound is at the verge of the metal-insulator transition, it is reasonable to make tunnel measurements to probe the electronic density of states in its subtleties. We present the results of such measurements carried out at ambient pressure. The break junction (BJ) tunneling gives evidence for the apparent typical gap 2ς of about 140 meV at temperature T, equal to 4 K. The gap is smeared out at T∗≈90-100 K. We interpret the gap as that induced by the charge density wave (CDW) formation, although its T-dependence differs from the usually observed CDW-like mean-field behavior. Quite unexpectedly, BJ spectra also exhibit distinct zero-bias peak accompanied by the low-energy gaps of 2Δ≈4-8 meV immediately after BJ are formed at 4 K. The thermally driven disappearance of this apparently superconducting structure at Tc≈7-13 K is consistent with the conventional properties of superconducting tunnel junctions. The resultant ratio Δ/Tc is consistent with similar observed values for a high-Tc cuprate superconductor. Therefore, we attribute this feature as well as the Josephson-like zero-bias conductance peak to the superconductivity induced at the freshly created BJ surface of the (Sr, Ca)14Cu24O41, which is semiconducting in the sample bulk. Our additional scanning tunneling microscopy data testify that the cracked atomic surface of this compound is substantially modified, which might be the reason for the superconductivity appearance.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
- Condensed Matter Physics