A new study by theoretical physicists at the University of Toronto and the University of California at Los Angeles (ULCA) could bring scientists one step closer to the dream of a superconductor that functions at room temperature, rather than the frigid temperatures more commonly found in deep space.
Microscopic image of a ceramic superconductor
Image: Michael W. Davidson
Florida State University
The findings, which appear in the March 4 issue of the journal Nature, identify three factors that explain a perplexing pattern in the temperatures at which multi-layered ceramic materials become superconductors. The study could advance research in medical imaging, electrical power transmission and magnetically levitating trains. Its authors are U of T physics professor Hae-Young Kee and post-doctoral fellow Klaus Völker, and Professor Sudip Chakravarty of UCLA’s physics and astronomy department.
Superconductivity is a phenomenon that occurs when certain metals are cooled to near absolute zero, a temperature equivalent to zero degrees Kelvin (K), -273 C or -459 F. In ceramic materials, the phenomenon appears at about 100K. At a so-called critical temperature—that varies depending on the number of layers within the ceramic substance—the material becomes capable of conducting electricity without any energy loss.
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