Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Pinning down superconductivity to a single layer

02.11.2009
Findings may lead to precision engineering of superconducting thin films for electronic devices

Using precision techniques for making superconducting thin films layer-by-layer, physicists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory have identified a single layer responsible for one such material's ability to become superconducting, i.e., carry electrical current with no energy loss.

The technique, described in the October 30, 2009, issue of Science, could be used to engineer ultrathin films with "tunable" superconductivity for higher-efficiency electronic devices.

"We wanted to answer a fundamental question about such films," said Brookhaven physicist and the group leader Ivan Bozovic. "Namely: How thin can the film be and still retain high-temperature superconductivity?"

The thinner the material (and the higher its transition temperature to a superconductor), the greater its potential for applications where the superconductivity can be controlled by an external electric field. "This type of control is difficult to achieve with thicker films, because an electric field does not penetrate into metals more than a nanometer or so," Bozovic explained.

To explore the limits of thinness, Bozovic's group synthesized a series of films based on the high-temperature superconducting cuprates (copper-oxides) — materials that carry current with no energy loss when cooled below a certain transition temperature (Tc). Since zinc is known to suppress the superconductivity in these materials, the scientists systematically substituted a small amount of zinc into each of the copper-oxide layers. Any layer where the zinc's presence had a suppressing effect would be clearly identified as essential to superconductivity in the film.

"Our measurements showed that the zinc doping had essentially no effect, except when placed in a single, well-defined layer. When the zinc was in that layer, the superconductivity was dramatically suppressed," Bozovic said.

The material studied by Bozovic's team was unusual in that it consists of layers of two materials, one metallic and one insulating, that are not superconductors on their own, but rather exhibit superconductivity at the interface between them [see http://www.bnl.gov/bnlweb/pubaf/pr/PR_display.asp?prID=822].

The layer identified as essential to the superconductivity by the zinc-substitution experiment represents the second copper-oxide layer away from the interface. The scientists found that the presence of zinc had no effect on the transition temperature at which superconductivity sets in, about 32 kelvin (-241 Celsius), except when placed in that particular layer. In the latter case, the scientists observed a dramatic drop in the transition temperature to 18 kelvin (-255 Celsius). The reduction in transition temperature provides a clear indication that that particular layer is the "hot" one responsible for the relatively high temperature at which superconductivity normally sets in for this material.

"We now have a clean experimental proof that high-temperature superconductivity can exist, undiminished, in a single copper-oxide layer," Bozovic said. "This piece of information gives important input to our theoretical understanding of this phenomenon."

Bozovic explained that, in the material he studied, the electrons required for superconductivity actually come from the metallic material below the interface. They leak into the insulating material above the interface and achieve the critical level in that second copper-oxide layer.

But in principle, he says, there are other ways to achieve the same concentration of electrons in that single layer, for example, by doping achieved by applying electric fields. That would result in high-temperature superconductivity in a single copper-oxide layer measuring just 0.66 nanometers.

From a practical viewpoint, this discovery opens a path toward the fabrication of electronic devices with modulated, or tunable, superconducting properties which can be controlled by electric or magnetic fields.

"Electronic devices already consume a large fraction of our electricity usage — and this is growing fast." Bozovic continued. "Clearly, we will need less-power hungry electronics in the future." Superconductors, which operate without energy loss — particularly those that operate at warmer, more-practical temperatures — may be one way to go.

Bozovic's layer-by-layer synthesis method and ability to strategically alter individual layers' composition might also be used to explore and possibly control other electronic phenomena and properties that emerge at the interfaces between layered materials.

This research was funded by the DOE Office of Science.

One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven Lab also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers. Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE's Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by the Research Foundation of State University of New York on behalf of Stony Brook University, the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit, applied science and technology organization.

Karen McNulty Walsh | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.bnl.gov
http://www.bnl.gov/newsroom

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Energy hybrid: Battery meets super capacitor
01.12.2016 | Technische Universität Graz

nachricht Tailor-Made Membranes for the Environment
30.11.2016 | Forschungszentrum Jülich

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>