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Shedding infrared light on high-Tc superconductivity

The mechanism of high-Tc superconductivity is one of the most challenging unresolved problems in contemporary physics.  The recent discovery of high Tc superconductivity in the iron pnictides, while interesting in itself, offers a new perspective on several aspects of cuprate high-Tc superconductors. In this talk, I will overview common patterns as well as contrasting trends between the two classes of high-Tc materials, focusing on the information generated through infrared/optical probes. Infrared methods [RMP 83, 471 (2011)] enable experimental access to energy gaps in a superconductor, strong coupling effects responsible for pairing, the collective response of the superfluid and allow one to quantify the strength of electronic correlations [Nature-Physics 5, 647 (2009), PRL 108, 147001 (2012) & PRL 109, 027006 (2012)].  With this panoramic view of effects central for our understanding of superconductivity I will attempt to identify factors favoring higher Tc in exotic superconductors [Nature-Physics 7, 271 (2011)].