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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2023
  2. Abstract

    Charge density waves (CDWs) in the cuprate high-temperature superconductors have evoked much interest, yet their typical short-range nature has raised questions regarding the role of disorder. Here we report a resonant X-ray diffraction study of ZrTe$${}_{3}$$3, a model CDW system, with focus on the influence of disorder. Near the CDW transition temperature, we observe two independent signals that arise concomitantly, only to become clearly separated in momentum while developing very different correlation lengths in the well-ordered state that is reached at a distinctly lower temperature. Anomalously slow dynamics of mesoscopic charge domains are further found near the transition temperature, in spite of the expected strong thermal fluctuations. Our observations signify the presence of distinct experimental fingerprints of pristine and disorder-perturbed CDWs. We discuss the latter also in the context of Friedel oscillations, which we argue might promote CDW formation via a self-amplifying process.