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Research Highlight | Materials Science Division

Cuprate-like orbital state in a metallic layered nickelate

In a study published in Nature Physics, researchers reported that the low-valent, quasi-two-dimensional trilayer compound Pr4Ni3O8 avoids a charge-stripe-ordered phase previously reported for La4Ni3O8, leading to a metallic ground state.

Scientific Achievement

We have discovered that the layered nickelate Pr4Ni3O8 is metallic, with Ni 3d states of x2-y2 character that are hybridized with oxygen ligands.

Significance and Impact

Our result means that Pr4Ni3O8 corresponds to the overdoped, metallic régime of the cuprates, and suggests electron doping as a route to a nickelate superconductor.

Research Details

  • X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) establishes strong x2-y2 Ni 3d-orbital polarization in bulk single crystals of R4Ni3O8 (R=La, Pr).
  • DFT calculations corroborate XAS measurements to establish that Ni adopts a low-spin state with strong Ni 3d — O 2p hybridization. 
  • While the related La4Ni3O8 is a charge-ordered insulator, both transport and heat capacity data reveal that Pr4Ni3O8 is metallic, a necessary condition for potential cuprate-like superconductivity.

DOI10.1038/nphys4149

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