The comparison between our theory and the experiment looks fantastic,
until you find out that the experimentalists find a similar fit from
a model of elastic deformations around randomly arranged oxygens.
(*Jiang et al., PRL 67, 2167 (1991)*)

We attribute the funny shape of the peaks to a nonlinear response of the material to random distribution of aluminums substituted into the square copper lattice: the disorder changes the desire for elastic distortion (via a quadratic coupling), which together with the elastic anisotropy leads to the peaks. They attribute it to a linear response of the material to the random placements of oxygens, which sit on the bonds between the coppers: indeed, in their model the material is roughly elastically isotropic.

Who is wrong? Actually, we believe both approaches are equivalent, in disguise. There are three seemingly compelling questions that need to be addressed:

- Is it the oxygens, or is it the aluminums? For the experimentalists, the oxygens are the most important degrees of freedom. After all, the shape transition occurs when the oxygens decide to line up into chains! (This oxygen diffusion makes the high temperature superconductors slightly different from mainstream martensites, in a way that doesn't matter for us here.) On the other hand, we think of the oxygens as being very much like the elastic deformations: because they are mobile, they relax into a configuration which minimizes the free energy. So we lump the oxygens with the phonons as part of our order parameter, and think of the response of the order parameter to the (static) random arrangements of aluminums.
- Are the elastic constants nearly isotropic, or strongly anisotropic? The experimentalists measure the elastic deformations either by ultrasound or by neutron scattering:
- If random oxygens do as well, why make up such a fancy theory? Actually, to get really good fits to their data, the experimentalists need to put some correlations between oxygens. The tails of the diffraction peaks fall off too fast for the oxygens to be random, and the experimentalists say that the oxygens start forming into rows and the rows are broken up by the aluminums. Our theory implicitly is a model of just this kind of effect: if aluminum concentration raises the transition temperature then the ordering will take place in regions far from the aluminums ... In fact, our model has the tails of the diffraction peaks falling off faster than the data, which (as mentioned by the experimentalists) falls off faster than random oxygens would imply.

Thanks to Simon Moss for a useful discussion leading to this note.

- Sethna's Research 90-94
- Entertaining Science done at
- LASSP.

Last modified: January 2, 1995James P. Sethna, sethna@lassp.cornell.edu

Statistical Mechanics: Entropy, Order Parameters, and Complexity, now available at Oxford University Press (USA, Europe).