Direct observation of nanoscale interface phase in the superconducting chalcogenide KxFe2-ySe2 with intrinsic phase separation
We have used scanning micro x-ray diffraction to characterize different phases in superconducting KxFe2-ySe2 as a function of temperature, unveiling the thermal evolution across the superconducting transition temperature (T-c similar to 32 K), phase separation temperature (T-ps similar to 520 K), and iron-vacancy order temperature (T-vo similar to 580 K). In addition to the iron-vacancy ordered tetragonalmagnetic phase and orthorhombicmetallic minority filamentary phase, we have found clear evidence of the interface phase with tetragonal symmetry. The metallic phase is surrounded by this interface phase below similar to 300 K, and is embedded in the insulating texture. The spatial distribution of coexisting phases as a function of temperature provides clear evidence of the formation of protected metallic percolative paths in themajority texturewith largemagnetic moment, required for the electronic coherence for the superconductivity. Furthermore, a clear reorganization of iron-vacancy order around the T-ps and T-c is found with the interface phase being mostly associated with a different iron-vacancy configuration, that may be important for protecting the percolative superconductivity in KxFe2-ySe2.