Topological defects coupling smectic modulations to intra-unit-cell nematicity in cuprates
We study the coexisting smectic modulations and intra-unit-cell nematicity in the pseudogap states of underdoped Bi 2Sr 2CaCu 2O 8+δ. By visualizing their spatial components separately, we identified 2π topological defects throughout the phase-fluctuating smectic states. Imaging the locations of large numbers of these topological defects simultaneously with the fluctuations in the intra-unit-cell nematicity revealed strong empirical evidence for a coupling between them. From these observations, we propose a Ginzburg-Landau functional describing this coupling and demonstrate how it can explain the coexistence of the smectic and intra-unit-cell broken symmetries and also correctly predict their interplay at the atomic scale. This theoretical perspective can lead to unraveling the complexities of the phase diagram of cuprate high-critical- temperature superconductors.