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Mounir Boukahil

Quantum criticality and Fermisurface instabilities investigation by pressure and quantum oscillation measurements on Ce and Ybbased heavy fermion compounds

Published on 17 October 2014
Thesis presented October 17, 2014

The superconductivity had been thought to be incompatible with the magnetism, because the former originates from the weak attractive leading to the formation of Cooper pairs, whereas the latter is based on the strong Coulomb repulsive force, leading also to strong electronic correlations. Unconventional superconductors, which include heavy fermion systems, high-Tc cuprates, organic superconductors, and iron-pnictides, is a major topic of condensed matter physics. In all these systems, it has been understood that magnetism can even plays an important role for the pairing mechanism, so that both phenomena can coexist and even favor each other.
Our target is on heavy fermion systems, namely uranium and rare earth compounds, where the 5f or 4f electrons which have a dual nature (itinerant/localized), play an important role. More precisely, we will focus on the ferromagnetic superconductors and their quantum criticality. In this field, new materials open new frontiers of research. The student will participate in this stream. He will learn and develop the fundamental crystal growth techniques, such as Czochralski, flux, and Bridgeman method. Since high quality single crystals are essential to elucidate the superconducting properties, a lot of efforts will be devoted to improve the quality of the samples. The next target is the quantum oscillation measurements, which allow a detailed microscopic observation of the heavy electronic state and of the topology of the Fermi surface. They require both very low temperature and high fields, like the study of the field induced superconducting phases in these compounds (like URhGe or UCoGe). The student will perform the measurements under extreme conditions, namely high fields up to 15T in SPSMS, or up to 30T in LNCMI, at low temperatures down to 30 mK, and high pressure up to 3 GPa. From the educational point of view, it is ideal that the student starts to synthesize a material, characterizes it, performs the low temperature measurements by him/herself throughout the PhD period, and get used to the exciting measurements under extreme conditions in a large scale facility like the LNCMI. Such a wide spectrum is rather rare in Europe, but our group (SPSMS/LNCMI) can provide such a unique opportunity, helping the student to become an independent researcher. It should be noted that the experiments in SPSMS and LNCMI are quite complementary each other. For quantum oscillation study, high fields, low temperatures and high quality singles are inevitably important. In general, the precise measurements at high fields up to 15T would be enough in order to determine the Fermi surface topology and the effective mass, which can be done in SPSMS. However, the specific case, such as Lifshitz transition, field induced quantum critical phenomena, requires higher fields than 15T, which can be achieved by the resistive magnet in LNCMI.
This project is supported by the ANR (CORMAT, SINUS) and the ERC starting grant “New Heavy Fermion”.
Recently in SPSMS we purchased a top-loading dilution refrigerator for the quantum oscillation measurements, and started the installation. By the end of this summer, hopefully we detect the first de Haas-van Alphen signal at high fields up to 15T and at temperatures down to 30mK. Furthermore, we started to install the flux crystal growth equipment this month, involving the reconstruction of the room for the safe treatment of uranium compounds.

Ferromagnetic, Superconductivity, Uranium

On-line thesis.