Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Electron "Pairing": Triplet superconductivity proven experientially for first time

01.12.2010
Tracking down Cooper pairs: RUB researchers confirm theoretical hypothesis

Researchers at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB), Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel (CAU) and Santa Barbara (USA) have made the first experimental breakthrough in quantum physics: Their studies on the "pairing behavior" of electrons have proven for the first time the existence of electron pairs, so-called Cooper pairs, with parallel spin direction. Cooper pairs cause superconductivity – this is a particular state of material, in which the electrical resistance disappears. Until now the existence of triplet Cooper pairs has only been predicted theoretically.

The results achieved by this research team headed by Prof. Kurt Westerholt and Prof. Hartmut Zabel (Department of Physics and Astronomy at RUB) could contribute to new, power saving components in the future. The researchers reported on their findings in the American Physical Society's noted journal "The Physical Review“.

Electron pairs in singlet state

If it were possible to eliminate electrical resistance we could reduce our electric bill significantly and make a significant contribution to solving the energy problem, if it were not for a few other problems. Many metals as well as oxides demonstrate a superconductive state, however only at low temperatures. The superconductive effect results from Cooper pairs that migrate through the metal together "without resistance". The electrons in each Cooper pair are arranged so that their composite angular momentum is zero. Each electron has an angular momentum, the so-called spin, with a value of 1/2. When one electron spins counterclockwise (-1/2) and the other clockwise (+1/2), the total of the two spin values is zero. This effect, found only in superconductors, is called the singlet state.

Superconductive Cooper pairs

If a superconductor is brought into contact with a ferromagnetic material, the Cooper pairs are broken up along the shortest path and the superconductor becomes a normal conductor. Cooper pairs cannot continue to exist in a singlet state in a ferromagnetic material. Researches at RUB (Prof. Konstantin Efetov, Solid State Physics) among others have, however, theoretically predicted a new type of Cooper pair, which has a better chance of survival in ferromagnetic materials. In such Cooper pairs the electrons spin in parallel with one another so that they have a finite spin with a value of 1. Since this angular momentum can have three orientations in space, it is also known as the triplet state. "Obviously there can also be only one certain, small fraction of Cooper pairs in a triplet state, which then quickly revert to the singlet state" explained Prof. Kurt Westerholt. "The challenge was to verify these triplet Cooper pairs experimentally“.

Tunnel current from Cooper pairs

Superconductors allow us to produce highly sensitive detectors for magnetic fields, which even allow detection of magnetic fields resulting from brain waves. These detectors are called SQUID's (superconducting quantum interference devices) – components which use the superconductive quantum properties. The central feature in these components consists of so-called tunnel barriers with a series of layers made up of a superconductor, insulator and another superconductor. Quantum mechanics allows a Cooper pair to be "tunneled" through a very thin insulating layer. Tunneling of a large number of Cooper pairs results in a tunnel current. "Naturally the barrier cannot be too thick, otherwise the tunnel current subsides. A thickness of one to two nanometers is ideal“, according to Prof. Hermann Kohlstedt (CAU).

Double success in Bochum und Kiel

If part of the tunnel barrier is replaced by a ferromagnetic layer, the Cooper pairs are broken up while they are still in the barrier and do not reach the superconductor on the other side. The tunnel current decreases drastically. "Triplet Cooper pairs can, however, be tunneled much better through such a ferromagnetic barrier", says Dirk Sprungmann, who was involved as Ph.D. student. If we are successful in converting a portion of the singlet Cooper pairs to triplet Cooper pairs, the tunnel current should be significantly stronger and be able to pass through a thicker ferromagnetic layer. This is precisely what the physicists in Bochum and Kiel tested. They allowed the Cooper pairs to pass through ferromagnetic barriers with thicknesses of up to 10 nanometers. With this attempt the physicists achieved a double success. On the one hand they were able to experimentally verify the existence of triplet Cooper pairs, and, on the other, they demonstrated that the tunnel current is greater than for singlet Cooper pairs in conventional tunnel contacts. "These new ferromagnetic tunnel barriers may possibly be used for new types of components", states Dr. Martin Weides (Santa Barbara). With their research findings the scientists confirmed, among other things, the theoretical work of a Norwegian research team published only a few weeks before.

Title picture

D. Sprungmann, K. Westerholt, H. Zabel, M. Weides, H. Kohlstedt: Evidence of triplet superconductivity in Josephson junctions with barriers of the ferromagnetic Heusler alloy Cu2MnAl. Physical Review B 82 (2010), DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevB.82.060505

Further information

Prof. Hartmut Zabel, Prof. Kurt Westerholt, Experimental Physics IV – Solid State Physics, Department of Physics and Astronomy at RUB, Tel. +49 (0)234/32-23650, -23621, Email: hartmut.zabel@rub.de. Kurt.westerholt@rub.de

Prof. Dr. Hermann Kohlstedt, Nanoelektronik, Technische Fakultät Kiel, Christian-Albrechts-Universität Kiel, hko@tf.uni-kiel.de, +49 (0)431/880-6075

Editor: Jens Wylkop

Dr. Josef König | idw
Further information:
http://www.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'
26.05.2017 | University of Leicester

nachricht Measured for the first time: Direction of light waves changed by quantum effect
24.05.2017 | Vienna University of Technology

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>