Much remains unknown of the microscopic origin of superconductivity in atomically disordered systems of amorphous alloys or in crystals riddled with defects. A manifestation of this conundrum is envisaged in the highly defective superconductor of K x Fe 2-y Se 2. How can superconductivity survive under such crude conditions that call for strong electron localization? Here, we show that the Fe sublattice is locally distorted and accommodates two kinds of Fe valence environments giving rise to a bimodal bond-distribution, with short and long Fe bonds. The bimodal bonds are present even as the system becomes superconducting in the presence of antiferromagnetism, with the weight continuously shifting from the short to the long with increasing K content. Such a hybrid state is most likely found in cuprates as well while our results point to the importance of the local atomic symmetry by which exchange interactions between local moments materialize.
Superconductor and magnetic material research; Single and poly crystal compound synthesis; Measurement of material properties in low temperature; Average and Local Atomic structure Analysis with x-ray and neutron scattering