Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Visualizing how radiation bombardment boosts superconductivity

26.05.2015

Atomic-level flyovers show how impact sites of high-energy ions pin potentially disruptive vortices to keep high-current superconductivity flowing

Sometimes a little damage can do a lot of good -- at least in the case of iron-based high-temperature superconductors. Bombarding these materials with high-energy heavy ions introduces nanometer-scale damage tracks that can enhance the materials' ability to carry high current with no energy loss -- and without lowering the critical operating temperature. Such high-current, high-temperature superconductors could one day find application in zero-energy-loss power transmission lines or energy-generating turbines. But before that can happen, scientists would like to understand quantitatively and in detail how the damage helps--and use that knowledge to strategically engineer superconductors with the best characteristics for a given application.


High-energy gold ions impact the crystal surface from above at the sites indicated schematically by dashed circles. Measurement of the strength of superconductivity in this same field of view, as shown on the lower panel, reveals how the impact sites are the regions where the superconductivity is also annihilated. In additional studies, the scientists discovered that it is in these same regions that the strongest pinning of quantized vortices occurs, followed at higher magnetic fields by pinning at the single atom crystal damage sites. Pinning the vortices allows high current superconductivity to flow unimpeded through the rest of the sample.

Credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory

In a paper published May 22, 2015, in Science Advances, researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven and Argonne national laboratories describe atomic-level "flyovers" of the pockmarked landscape of an iron-based superconductor after bombardment with heavy ion radiation. The surface-scanning images show how certain types of damage can pin potentially disruptive magnetic vortices in place, preventing them from interfering with superconductivity.

The work is a product of the Center for Emergent Superconductivity, a DOE Energy Frontier Research Center established at Brookhaven in partnership with Argonne and the University of Illinois to foster collaboration and maximize the impact of this research.

"This study opens a new way forward for designing and understanding high-current, high-performing superconductors," said study co-author J.C. Séamus Davis, a physicist at Brookhaven Lab and Cornell University. "We demonstrated a procedure whereby you can irradiate a sample with heavy ions, visualize what the ions do to the crystal at the atomic scale, and simultaneously see what happens to the superconductivity in precisely the same field of view."

Argonne physicist Wai-Kwong Kwok led the effort on heavy ion bombardment. "Heavy ions such as gold can create nearly continuous or discontinuous column shaped damage tracks penetrating through the crystal. As the very high-energy ions traverse the material, they melt the crystal at the atomic scale and destroy the crystal structure over a diameter of a few nanometers. It's important to understand the details of how these atomic-scale defects affect local electronic properties and the macroscopic current carrying capacity of the bulk material," he said.

The scientists were particularly interested in how the nanoscale defects interact with microscopic magnetic vortices that form when iron-based superconductors are placed in a strong magnetic field -- the type that would be present in turbines and other energy applications.

"These quantum vortices are like eddies in a river moving across or counter to the direction of flow," Davis said. "They are the enemy of superconductivity. You can't prevent them from forming, but scientists as long ago as the 1970s found you can sometimes prevent them from moving around by shooting some high-energy ions into the material to form atomic-scale damage tracks that trap the vortices."

But random bombardment is, literally, hit-or-miss. Scientists developing materials for energy applications would like to take a more strategic approach by developing a quantitative and predictive theory for how to engineer these materials.

"If a company comes to us and says we are developing these superconductors and we want them to have this current at a certain temperature in this type of magnetic field, we'd like to be able to tell them exactly what type of defects to introduce," Kwok said. To do that they needed a way to map out the defects, map out the superconductivity, and map out the locations of the vortices -- and a quantitative theoretical model that describes how those variables relate to one another and the material's bulk superconductivity.

A precision spectroscopic-imaging scanning tunneling microscope (SI-STM) developed by Davis is the first tool that can map out those three characteristics on the same material. Under Davis' guidance, Brookhaven Lab postdoctoral fellow Freek Massee (now at University Paris-Sud in France) and Cornell University graduate student Peter Sprau -- the two lead co-authors on the paper -- used the instrument's fine electron-tunneling tip to scan over the material's surface, imaging the atomic structure of the landscape below and the properties of its electrons, atom by atom. The precision allows the scientists to scan the same atoms repeatedly under different external conditions -- such as changes in temperature and ramped up magnetic fields -- to study the formation, movement, and effects of quantum vortices.

Their atomic-scale imaging studies reveal that vortex pinning -- the ability to keep those disruptive eddies in place -- depends on the shape of the high-energy ion damage tracks (specifically whether they are point-like or elongated), and also on a form of "collateral damage" discovered by the researchers far from the primary route traversed by each ion. Collaborating theorists at the University of Illinois are now using the experimental results to develop a descriptive framework the scientists can use to predict and test new approaches for materials design.

"These studies will really help us solve at which temperature which type of defects will be best for carrying a particular current," Kwok said. "The ability to achieve critical current by design is one of the ultimate goals of the Center for Emergent Superconductivity."

###

This work was supported by the DOE Office of Science through the Center for Emergent Superconductivity at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Brookhaven National Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory are supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

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 for the 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.

Media Contact

Karen McNulty Walsh
kmcnulty@bnl.gov
631-344-8350

 @brookhavenlab

http://www.bnl.gov 

Karen McNulty Walsh | EurekAlert!

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht NASA Protects its super heroes from space weather
17.08.2017 | NASA/Johnson Space Center

nachricht New thruster design increases efficiency for future spaceflight
16.08.2017 | American Institute of Physics

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: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Climate change: In their old age, trees still accumulate large quantities of carbon

17.08.2017 | Earth Sciences

Modern genetic sequencing tools give clearer picture of how corals are related

17.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Superconductivity research reveals potential new state of matter

17.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>