'Inverse' melting of a vortex lattice

Abstract : Inverse melting is the process in which a crystal reversibly transforms into a liquid or amorphous phase when its temperature is decreased. Such a process is considered to be very rare(1), and the search for it is often hampered by the formation of non-equilibrium states or intermediate phases(2). Here we report the discovery of first-order inverse melting of the lattice formed by magnetic flux lines in a high-temperature superconductor. At low temperatures, disorder in the material pins the vortices, preventing the observation of their equilibrium properties and therefore the determination of whether a phase transition occurs. But by using a technique(3) to 'dither' the vortices, we were able to equilibrate the lattice, which enabled us to obtain direct thermodynamic evidence of inverse melting of the ordered lattice into a disordered vortex phase as the temperature is decreased. The ordered lattice has larger entropy than the low-temperature disordered phase. The mechanism of the first-order phase transition changes gradually from thermally induced melting at high temperatures to a disorder-induced transition at low temperatures.
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Submitted on : Friday, September 26, 2014 - 9:36:14 AM
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Nurit Avraham, B. Khaykovich, Yuri Myasoedov, Michael Rappaport, Hadas Shtrikman, et al.. 'Inverse' melting of a vortex lattice. Nature, Nature Publishing Group, 2001, 411 (6836), pp.451-454. ⟨10.1038/35078021⟩. ⟨hal-01068631⟩

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