Specific heat and Nernst effect of electron-doped cuprate superconductors

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Balci, Hamza
Greene, Richard L.
This thesis consists of two separate studies on Pr2-xCexCuO4 (PCCO), a member of the electron-doped high temperature cuprate superconductor family: specific heat and the Nernst effect. We measured the specific heat of PCCO single crystals in order to probe the symmetry of the superconducting order parameter, to study the effect of oxygen reduction (annealing) on bulk properties of the crystals, and to determine properties like the condensation energy and the thermodynamic critical field. The order parameter symmetry has been established to be d-wave in the hole-doped cuprates. Experiments performed on electron-doped cuprates show conflicting results. Different experiments suggest s-wave symmetry, d-wave symmetry, or a transition from d-wave to s-wave symmetry with increasing cerium doping. However, most of these experiments are surface sensitive experiments. Specific heat, as a bulk method of probing the gap symmetry is essential in order to convincingly determine the gap symmetry. Our data proposes a way to reconcile all these conflicting results regarding the gap symmetry. In addition, prior specific heat measurements attempting to determine thermodynamic properties like the condensation energy were not successful due to inefficient methods of data analysis or poor sample quality. With improvements on sample quality and data analysis, we reliably determined these properties. The second part of this thesis is a study of the Nernst effect in PCCO thin films with different cerium dopings. We probed the superconducting fluctuations, studied transport phenomena in the normal state, and accurately measured Hc2 by using the Nernst effect. After the discovery of the anomalous Nernst effect in the normal state of the hole-doped cuprates, many alternative explanations have been proposed. Vortex-like excitations above Tc, superconducting fluctuations, AFM fluctuations, and preformed Cooper pairs are some of these proposals. The electron-doped cuprates, due to their significant differences from the hole-doped cuprates in terms of coherence length and the phase stiffness temperature (a measure of superfluid density) are the ideal materials to test these ideas. Our data on the electron-doped cuprates does not show any anomalous Nernst effect, and hence it supports the superconducting fluctuations picture among the various proposals.