Magnetic interactions and magnetic impurities are destructive to superconductivity in conventional superconductors. By contrast, in some unconventional macroscopic quantum systems (such as superfluid He and superconducting UGe2), the superconductivity (or superfluidity) is actually mediated by magnetic interactions. A magnetic mechanism has also been proposed for high-temperature superconductivity. Within this context, the fact that magnetic Ni impurity atoms have a weaker effect on superconductivity than non-magnetic Zn atoms in the high-Tc superconductors has been put forward as evidence supporting a magnetic mechanism. Here we use scanning tunnelling microscopy to determine directly the influence of individual Ni atoms on the local electronic structure of Bi2Sr2CaCu2O8+δ. At each Ni site we observe two d-wave impurity states of apparently opposite spin polarization, whose existence indicates that Ni retains a magnetic moment in the superconducting state. However, analysis of the impurity-state energies shows that quasiparticle scattering at Ni is predominantly non-magnetic. Furthermore, we show that the superconducting energy gap and correlations are unimpaired at Ni. This is in strong contrast to the effects of non-magnetic Zn impurities, which locally destroy superconductivity. These results are consistent with predictions for impurity atom phenomena derived from a magnetic mechanism.
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