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Phonon softening and slowing-down of charge density wave fluctuations in BaNi2As2


BaNi2As2 is a nonmagnetic analog of the iron pnictide superconductors, and exhibits an incommensurate charge density wave (IC-CDW) and a sizable elastoresistance. In this Letter, phonons in BaNi2As2 associated with the IC-CDW and uniform in-plane lattice distortions are investigated using high-resolution inelastic x-ray scattering. The in-plane transverse acoustic phonons reveal no softening at temperatures where the elastoresistance increases strongly, indicating the latter to be electronically driven. Systematic phonon measurements suggest the IC-CDW occurs in two stages upon cooling: Underdamped phonons first soften to zero energy well above the IC-CDW ordering temperature, then the resulting quasielastic IC-CDW fluctuations gradually slow down and coalesce into the static IC-CDW order. A possible origin for our observations is the IC-CDW in BaNi2As2 being uniaxial, which provides an additional Ising degree of freedom favorable for disordered IC-CDW modulations, and accounts for the elastoresistance through a weak coupling to the lattice.

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