Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New Superconductor Research May Solve Key Problem in Physics

16.07.2010
Binghamton University physicist Michael Lawler and his colleagues have made a breakthrough that could lead to advances in superconductors. Their findings will be published this week in the prestigious British journal Nature.

The data Lawler analyzed have been available for several years, but have not been well understood until now. “The pattern looked so mysterious and interesting,” he said. “It’s so different from any other material we’ve ever looked at. Trying to understand what this data is really trying to tell us has been one of our big ambitions, and we think we have captured one of its essential ingredients.”

Lawler, a theoretical physicist, worked with physicists at Cornell University, Brookhaven National Laboratory and laboratories in Japan and Korea on this research. They found what may be the key to unlocking the secrets of the so-called “pseudogap phenomenon” in superconductors.


The “pseudogap phenomenon” is the remarkable vanishing of the low-energy electronic excitations in high-temperature superconductors. A material experiencing this rare phenomenon becomes mostly insulating but otherwise behaves like a superconductor. And because this can happen at room temperature, scientists believe it may be possible for superconductivity to exist at these temperatures.

Superconductors are materials – often but not always metals – that conduct electricity without resistance below a certain temperature. For decades, it was thought that these materials could conduct electricity only at temperatures far below freezing. In the last 20 years, however, scientists have discovered several compounds that superconduct at much higher temperatures.

In principle, a room-temperature superconductor could allow:
- Electricity to travel with zero energy loss from power plants to houses.
- High-speed trains to float on top of the superconductor.
- Cell phone towers that could handle many cell phone carriers in high-population areas.

"It’s one of the most interesting problems that we have in physics,” Lawler said. “I believe that having a challenge at that level can help produce breakthroughs in science.”

He and his colleagues found that the electronic states of two neighboring oxygen atoms in these superconductors are different from each other. Looking at the electronic structure, then, the physicists were able to observe a broken symmetry. “It is like the electronic states were stretched along the X-direction compared to the Y-direction,” Lawler said. “That the pseudogap phase has this order allows us to make the bold claim that it is actually a distinct phase of electronic matter.”

To understand this observation better, consider the phases of rod-like objects. Rod-like polymers have many more phases than the solid, liquid and gas phases of more ordinary atoms. At high temperatures, they are in a gas phase like such atoms. However, at lower temperatures, all the rods can point in one direction while still moving around freely like a gas or liquid. Physicists call this a “nematic phase.” The organization of the rods in this phase is similar to what the researchers observed in the electronic states associated with the pseudogap phenomena.

More phases of rod-like objects exist at lower temperatures until eventually the rods freeze into a crystal. Physicists call these intermediate phases "liquid-crystal phases." They are responsible for the liquid crystal displays commonly used in watches and televisions.

Lawler, who joined Binghamton’s faculty in 2008, earned his PhD at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and was a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Toronto. A self-described “pencil-and-paper theorist,” he is open to discovery in unexpected places. That was certainly the case with this project, as the inspiration for the data analysis came to him while he was shopping at Home Depot.

The researchers’ success, Lawler said, is owed to both the unusual data analysis—which is derived from radio technology – and the unique capabilities of his Cornell colleagues, who have a scanning tunneling microscope that enables them to look at single atoms while maintaining a large field of view.



Ryan Yarosh | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.binghamton.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Smooth propagation of spin waves using gold
26.06.2017 | Toyohashi University of Technology

nachricht A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL
23.06.2017 | Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

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 we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Study shines light on brain cells that coordinate movement

26.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Smooth propagation of spin waves using gold

26.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Switchable DNA mini-machines store information

26.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>