Persistent high-energy spin excitations in iron pnictide superconductors
Motivated by the premise that superconductivity in iron-based superconductors is unconventional and mediated by spin fluctuations, an intense research effort has been focused on characterizing the spin excitation spectrum in the magnetically ordered parent phases of the Fe-pnictides2,3 and - chalcogenides4. For these undoped materials it is well-established that the spin excitation spectrum consists of a sharp, highly dispersive magnon spanning an energy range of up to 200 meV (ref. 3). The fate of these high-energy magnetic modes upon sizable doping is hitherto unresolved. Using resonant inelastic x-ray scattering we show that optimally doped superconducting Ba0.6K0.4Fe2As2 retains well defined, dispersive high-energy modes of magnetic origin. These paramagnon modes are softer than, though as intense as, the magnon of undoped antiferromagnetic BaFe2As2. The persistence of spin excitations well into the superconducting phase suggests that, if spin fluctuations are responsible for superconducting pairing, they originate from a distinctly correlated spin-state. This connects Fe-pnictide superconductors to the high-Tc cuprates, for which in spite of fundamental differences in the electronic structure, similar paramagnon modes are present5.