High-harmonic spectroscopy of quantum phase transitions in a high-Tc superconductor

Jordi Alcalà, Utso Bhattacharya, Jens Biegert, Marcelo Ciappina, Ugaitz Elu, Tobias Graß, Piotr T. Grochowski, Maciej Lewenstein, Anna Palau, Themistoklis P. H. Sidiropoulos, Tobias Steinle, Igor Tyulnev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


We report on the nonlinear optical signatures of quantum phase transitions in the high-temperature superconductor YBCO, observed through high harmonic generation. While the linear optical response of the material is largely unchanged when cooling across the phase transitions, the nonlinear optical response sensitively imprints two critical points, one at the critical temperature of the cuprate with the exponential growth of the surface harmonic yield in the superconducting phase and another critical point, which marks the transition from strange metal to pseudogap phase. To reveal the underlying microscopic quantum dynamics, a strong-field quasi-Hubbard model was developed, which describes the measured optical response dependent on the formation of Cooper pairs. Further, the theory provides insight into the carrier scattering dynamics and allows us to differentiate between the superconducting, pseudogap, and strange metal phases. The direct connection between nonlinear optical response and microscopic dynamics provides a powerful methodology to study quantum phase transitions in correlated materials. Further implications are light wave control over intricate quantum phases, light–matter hybrids, and application for optical quantum computing.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number40
StateE-pub ahead of print - 26 Sep 2022


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