Ferroelectric enhancement of superconductivity in compressively strained SrTiO3 films
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Ferroelectric enhancement of superconductivity in compressively strained SrTiO3 films


SrTiO$_3$ is an incipient ferroelectric on the verge of a polar instability, which is avoided at low temperatures by quantum fluctuations. Within this unusual quantum paraelectric phase, superconductivity persists despite extremely dilute carrier densities. Ferroelectric fluctuations have been suspected to play a role in the origin of superconductivity by contributing to electron pairing. To investigate this possibility, we used optical second harmonic generation to measure the doping and temperature dependence of the ferroelectric order parameter in compressively strained SrTiO$_3$ thin films. At low temperatures, we uncover a spontaneous out-of-plane ferroelectric polarization with an onset that correlates perfectly with normal-state electrical resistivity anomalies. These anomalies have previously been associated with an enhancement of the superconducting critical temperature in doped SrTiO$_3$ films, directly linking the ferroelectric and superconducting phases. We develop a long-range mean-field Ising model of the ferroelectric phase transition to interpret the data and extract the relevant energy scales in the system. Our results support a long-suspected connection between ferroelectricity and superconductivity in SrTiO$_3$, but call into question the role played by ferroelectric fluctuations.

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