A UCSB postdoctoral scholar in physics discovers a counterintuitive phenomenon: the coexistence of superconductivity with dissipation
For his doctoral dissertation in the Goldman Superconductivity Research Group at the University of Minnesota, Yu Chen, now a postdoctoral researcher at UC Santa Barbara, developed a novel way to fabricate superconducting nanocircuitry. However, the extremely small zinc nanowires he designed did some unexpected — and sort of funky — things.
Chen, along with his thesis adviser, Allen M. Goldman, and theoretical physicist Alex Kamenev, both of the University of Minnesota, spent years seeking an explanation for these extremely puzzling effects. Their findings appear this week in Nature Physics.
"We were determined to figure out how we could reconcile the strange phenomena with the longstanding rules governing superconductivity," said lead author Chen. "The coexistence of superconductivity with dissipation, which we observed, is counterintuitive and bends the rules as we know them."
Typically superconductivity and dissipation are thought to be mutually exclusive because dissipation, a process in thermodynamic systems whereby electric energy is transformed into heat, is a feature of a normal — versus a superconductive — state.
"But we discovered that superconductivity and dissipation can coexist under rather generic conditions in what appears to be a universal manner," Chen said.
After long and careful work, which involved both experimental and theoretical efforts, the researchers found an explanation that fits. Behind all of the observed phenomena is a peculiar nonequilibrium state of quasiparticles — electron-like excitations that formed in the nanowires Chen designed.
The quasiparticles are created by phase slips. In a superconductive state, when supercurrent flows through the nanowire, the quantum mechanical function describing the superconductivity of the wire evolves along the length of the wire as a spiral shaped like a child's Slinky toy. From time to time, one of the revolutions of the spiral contracts and disappears altogether. This event is called a phase slip. This quirk generates quasiparticles, giving rise to a previously undiscovered voltage plateau state where dissipation and superconductivity coexist.
"The most significant achievement was making the nanowires smaller and cooler than anyone had done previously," Kamenev said. "This allowed the quasiparticles to travel through the wire faster and avoid relaxation. This leads to a peculiar nonthermal state, which combines properties of a superconductor and a normal metal at the same time."
In addition to discovering this unique phenomenon, the team also found another heretofore-unseen property in the voltage plateau. When a magnetic field is turned on in the voltage plateau state, rather than shrinking the superconducting region, which is what would usually occur, the superconducting area expands and is enhanced.
"This is an unexpected property of very small nanowires," said Goldman.
This state appears to be universal for ultra-small superconducting circuitry like Chen's, which features ideal contacts between the nano-elements and the leads. Such nanoscale superconductors may be key components in future superconducting computer systems.
"Our findings demonstrate that superconducting nanocircuits can be used as a simple, but rather generic platform to investigate nonequilibrium quantum phenomena," Chen concluded.
"Now we need to explore the parameters of nanowires that give rise to the effect and those that don't," Goldman said. "We also need to examine the behavior of wires of different lengths and different materials in order to further define the parameters."
Julie Cohen | Eurek Alert!
New research identifies how 3-D printed metals can be both strong and ductile
11.12.2017 | University of Birmingham
Three kinds of information from a single X-ray measurement
11.12.2017 | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong
Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...
An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications
Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...
Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.
The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
05.12.2017 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
11.12.2017 | Materials Sciences
11.12.2017 | Earth Sciences