Carlson Research Group

In Plain English

Our research group focuses on condensed matter theory, studying the electronic properties of novel materials. Current group interests include high temperature superconductivity, strongly correlated electrons, liquid crystalline phases of electrons, and soft electronic matter.


Public Lecture at West Lafayette Public Library, April2015:
Quantum Mechanics for Everyone (Highlight Reel, about 10 minutes)
Full version available at (about 50 minutes)

Are You More Than Your Atoms?
Prof. Carlson's talk about emergence at TEDxPurdueU 2013

Interactive talk and demonstration about superconductivity

Watch Prof. Carlson talk about her work in this short video from Dr. Carlson's Science Theater.

High Temperature Superconductivity

Superconductivity requires that electrons pair, and also become phase coherent. The transition temperature to superconductivity must be below both the energy scale of pairing, and the energy scale of phase coherence. The "catch 22" of raising the transition temperature is that raising one of these energy scales often results in the decrease of the other, and it is difficult to parametrically raise the transition temperature. This is seen empirically in the cuprate superconductors, where on the underdoped side, pairing (as measured by, e.g. the single particle tunneling gap) is strong but the phase stiffness energy scale (as measured by London penetration depth measurements) is weak. On the overdoped side, the situation is reversed, and as the phase stiffness energy scale rises, the paring scale is depressed.

E. W. Carlson, V. J. Emery, S. A. Kivelson, and D. Orgad, "Concepts in High Temperature Superconductivity," in The Physics of Conventional and Unconventional Superconductors, Vol. 2, ed. K.H. Bennemann and J.B. Ketterson (Springer-Verlag 2004)

Electronic Ising Nematic

Stripes within the copper-oxygen plane tend to lock to favorable lattice directions. For certain ranges of dopings, stripes lock to the Cu-O bond direction. In a four-fold symmetric crystal, stripes can lock either "vertically" or "horizontally" in the copper-oxygen plane, giving a natural mapping to the Ising model, where, e.g., up spins correspond to vertical stripe patches, and down spins correspond to horizontal ones. Disorder in the form of dopant atoms between planes favors one or the other direction locally, and acts as a random field on the Ising pseudospin. We are studying the consequences of this mapping for macroscopic nonequilibrium properties such as anisotropic transport, and also for local probes such as scanning tunneling microscopy.

E. W. Carlson, K. A. Dahmen, E. Fradkin, and S. A. Kivelson, "Hysteresis and Noise from Electronic Nematicity in High Temperature Superconductors," submitted to Phys. Rev. Lett.

Vortex Smectic-A

In anisotropic Type II superconductors, vortices have elongated cross sections, and anisotropic interactions. Anisotropic, repulsive objects generically give rise to liquid crystal phases. We predicted a new type of vortex phase in anisotropic superconductors, whereby the anisotropic Abrikosov lattice melts first into a smectic as temperature is raised, and then into the high temperature disordered phase. The vortex smectic forms an intermediate broken symmetry phase, where the vortices are liquid-like in one direction perpendicular to the external magnetic field, but lattice-like in the other. Because vortices melt first along the direction of short lattice constant, the intermediate phase has the symmetry of a smectic-A.

E. W. Carlson, A. H. Castro Neto, and D. K. Campbell, "Vortex Liquid Crystals in Anisotropic Type II Superconductors," Phys. Rev. Lett. 90, 087001 (2003)

Spin Waves in Striped Phases

Certain nickelate materials and some cuprate materials show evidence of stripe phases, whereby holes doped into an antiferromagnet congregate in lines called charge stripes. Each charge stripe introduces a line defect in the form of a &pi phase shift in the parent antiferromagnetic texture, leading to the formation of spin stripes as well. The elementary excitations of fully ordered spin stripes are spin waves, observable as finite energy excitations in neutron scattering experiments. We have studied both site-centered stripes, where the charged domain walls like on Ni or Cu sites, and bond-centered stripes, where the charge lines lie between Ni or Cu sites, and developed a litmus test for ruling out site-centered stripes from low energy neutron data.

E. W. Carlson, D.-X. Yao, and D. K. Campbell, "Spin Waves in Striped Phases," Phys. Rev. B, 70, 064505 (2004).