Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Lining up surprising behaviors of superconductor with one of the world's strongest magnets

09.08.2018

Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur

What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that have a "super" ability to conduct electricity when chilled by liquid nitrogen? A team of scientists set out to answer this question in one such superconductor made of the elements lanthanum, strontium, copper, and oxygen (LSCO). They discovered that the electrical resistance of this copper-oxide compound, or cuprate, changes in an unusual way when very high magnetic fields suppress its superconductivity at low temperatures.


This composite image offers a glimpse inside the custom-designed molecular beam epitaxy system that the Brookhaven physicists use to create single-crystal thin films for studying the properties of superconducting cuprates.

Credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory

"The most pressing problem in condensed matter physics is understanding the mechanism of superconductivity in cuprates because at ambient pressure they become superconducting at the highest temperature of any currently known material," said physicist Ivan Bozovic, who leads the Oxide Molecular Beam Epitaxy Group at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory and who is a coauthor of the Aug. 3 Science paper reporting the discovery. "This new result--that the electrical resistivity of LSCO scales linearly with magnetic field strength at low temperatures--provides further evidence that high-temperature superconductors do not behave like ordinary metals or superconductors. Once we can come up with a theory to explain their unusual behavior, we will know whether and where to search for superconductors that can carry large amounts of electrical current at higher temperatures, and perhaps even at room temperature."

Cuprates such as LSCO are normally insulators. Only when they are cooled to some hundred degrees below zero and the concentrations of their chemical composition are modified (a process called doping) to a make them metallic can their mobile electrons pair up to form a "superfluid" that flows without resistance. Scientists hope that understanding how cuprates achieve this amazing feat will enable them to develop room-temperature superconductors, which would make energy generation and delivery significantly more efficient and less expensive.

In 2016, Bozovic's group reported that LSCO's superconducting state is nothing like the one explained by the generally accepted theory of classical superconductivity; it depends on the number of electron pairs in a given volume rather than the strength of the electron pairing interaction. In a follow-up experiment published the following year, they obtained another puzzling result: when LSCO is in its non-superconducting (normal, or "metallic") state, its electrons do not behave as a liquid, as would be expected from the standard understanding of metals.

"The condensed matter physics community has been divided about this most basic question: do the behaviors of cuprates fall within existing theories for superconductors and metals, or are there profoundly different physical principles involved?" said Bozovic.

Continuing this comprehensive multipart study that began in 2005, Bozovic's group and collaborators have now found additional evidence to support the latter idea that the existing theories are incomplete. In other words, it is possible that these theories do not encompass every known material. Maybe there are two different types of metals and superconductors, for example.

"This study points to another property of the strange metallic state in the cuprates that is not typical of metals: linear magnetoresistance at very high magnetic fields," said Bozovic. "At low temperatures where the superconducting state is suppressed, the electrical resistivity of LSCO scales linearly (in a straight line) with the magnetic field; in metals, this relationship is quadratic (forms a parabola)."

In order to study magnetoresistance, Bozovic and group members Anthony Bollinger, Xi He, and Jie Wu first had to create flawless single-crystal thin films of LSCO near its optimal doping level. They used a technique called molecular beam epitaxy, in which separate beams containing atoms of the different chemical elements are fired onto a heated single-crystal substrate. When the atoms land on the substrate surface, they condense and slowly grow into ultra-thin layers, building a single atomic layer at a time. The growth of the crystal occurs in highly controlled conditions of ultra-high vacuum to ensure that the samples do not get contaminated.

"Brookhaven Lab's key contribution to this study is this material synthesis platform," said Bozovic. "It allows us to tailor the chemical composition of the films for different studies and provides the foundation for us to observe the true properties of superconducting materials, as opposed to properties induced by sample defects or impurities."

The scientists then patterned the thin films onto strips containing voltage leads so that the amount of electrical current flowing through LSCO under an applied magnetic field could be measured.

They conducted initial magnetoresistivity measurements with two 9 Tesla magnets at Brookhaven Lab--for reference, the strength of the magnets used in today's magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines are typically up to 3 Tesla. Then, they brought their best samples (those with the best structural and transport qualities) to the Pulsed Field Facility. Located at DOE's Los Alamos National Laboratory, this international user facility is part of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, which houses some of the strongest magnets in the world. Scientists at the Pulsed Field Facility placed the samples in an 80 Tesla pulsed magnet, powered by quick pulses, or shots, of electrical current. The magnet produces such large magnetic fields that it cannot be energized for more than a very short period of time (microseconds to a fraction of a second) without destroying itself.

"This large magnet, which is the size of a room and draws the electricity of a small city, is the only such installation on this continent," said Bozovic. "We only get access to it once a year if we are lucky, so we chose our best samples to study."

In October, the scientists will get access to a stronger (90 Tesla) magnet, which they will use to collect additional magnetoresistance data to see if the linear relationship still holds.

"While I do not expect to see something different, this higher field strength will allow us to expand the range of doping levels at which we can suppress superconductivity," said Bozovic. "Collecting more data over a broader range of chemical compositions will help theorists formulate the ultimate theory of high-temperature superconductivity in cuprates."

In the next year, Bozovic and the other physicists will collaborate with theorists to interpret the experimental data.

"It appears that the strongly correlated motion of electrons is behind the linear relationship we observed," said Bozovic. "There are various ideas of how to explain this behavior, but at this point, I would not single out any of them."

###

Brookhaven National Laboratory is 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.

Follow @BrookhavenLab on Twitter or find us on Facebook.

Media Contact

Ariana Tantillo
atantillo@bnl.gov
631-344-2347

 @brookhavenlab

http://www.bnl.gov 

Ariana Tantillo | EurekAlert!
Further information:
https://www.bnl.gov/newsroom/news.php?a=113033
http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aan3178

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Extremely close look at electron advances frontiers in particle physics
18.10.2018 | National Science Foundation

nachricht Blue phosphorus -- mapped and measured for the first time
16.10.2018 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie

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: Goodbye, silicon? On the way to new electronic materials with metal-organic networks

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz (Germany) together with scientists from Dresden, Leipzig, Sofia (Bulgaria) and Madrid (Spain) have now developed and characterized a novel, metal-organic material which displays electrical properties mimicking those of highly crystalline silicon. The material which can easily be fabricated at room temperature could serve as a replacement for expensive conventional inorganic materials used in optoelectronics.

Silicon, a so called semiconductor, is currently widely employed for the development of components such as solar cells, LEDs or computer chips. High purity...

Im Focus: Storage & Transport of highly volatile Gases made safer & cheaper by the use of “Kinetic Trapping"

Augsburg chemists present a new technology for compressing, storing and transporting highly volatile gases in porous frameworks/New prospects for gas-powered vehicles

Storage of highly volatile gases has always been a major technological challenge, not least for use in the automotive sector, for, for example, methane or...

Im Focus: Disrupting crystalline order to restore superfluidity

When we put water in a freezer, water molecules crystallize and form ice. This change from one phase of matter to another is called a phase transition. While this transition, and countless others that occur in nature, typically takes place at the same fixed conditions, such as the freezing point, one can ask how it can be influenced in a controlled way.

We are all familiar with such control of the freezing transition, as it is an essential ingredient in the art of making a sorbet or a slushy. To make a cold...

Im Focus: Micro energy harvesters for the Internet of Things

Fraunhofer IWS Dresden scientists print electronic layers with polymer ink

Thin organic layers provide machines and equipment with new functions. They enable, for example, tiny energy recuperators. In future, these will be installed...

Im Focus: Dynamik einzelner Proteine

Neue Messmethode erlaubt es Forschenden, die Bewegung von Molekülen lange und genau zu verfolgen

Das Zusammenspiel aus Struktur und Dynamik bestimmt die Funktion von Proteinen, den molekularen Werkzeugen der Zelle. Durch Fortschritte in der...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Conference to pave the way for new therapies

17.10.2018 | Event News

Berlin5GWeek: Private industrial networks and temporary 5G connectivity islands

16.10.2018 | Event News

5th International Conference on Cellular Materials (CellMAT), Scientific Programme online

02.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

RUDN chemist tested a new nanocatalyst for obtaining hydrogen

18.10.2018 | Life Sciences

Massive organism is crashing on our watch

18.10.2018 | Earth Sciences

Electrical enhancement: Engineers speed up electrons in semiconductors

18.10.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>