A parity-breaking electronic nematic phase transition in the spin-orbit coupled metal Cd2Re2O7

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Abstract

Strong electron interactions can drive metallic systems toward a variety of well-known symmetry-broken phases, but the instabilities of correlated metals with strong spin-orbit coupling have only recently begun to be explored. We uncovered a multipolar nematic phase of matter in the metallic pyrochlore Cd2Re2O7 using spatially resolved second-harmonic optical anisotropy measurements. Like previously discovered electronic nematic phases, this multipolar phase spontaneously breaks rotational symmetry while preserving translational invariance. However, it has the distinguishing property of being odd under spatial inversion, which is allowed only in the presence of spin-orbit coupling. By examining the critical behavior of the multipolar nematic order parameter, we show that it drives the thermal phase transition near 200 kelvin in Cd2Re2O7 and induces a parity-breaking lattice distortion as a secondary order.

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