Particle-wave duality suggests we think of electrons as waves stretched across a sample, with wavevector k proportional to their momentum. Their arrangement in k-space, and in particular the shape of the Fermi surface, where the highest-energy electrons of the system reside, determine many material properties. Here we use a novel extension of Fourier-transform scanning tunnelling microscopy to probe the Fermi surface of the strongly inhomogeneous Bi-based cuprate superconductors. Surprisingly, we find that, rather than being globally defined, the Fermi surface changes on nanometre length scales. Just as shifting tide lines expose variations of water height, changing Fermi surfaces indicate strong local doping variations. This discovery, unprecedented in any material, paves the way for an understanding of other inhomogeneous characteristics of the cuprates, such as the pseudogap magnitude, and highlights a new approach to the study of nanoscale inhomogeneity in general.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Physics and Astronomy(all)