Physicists from Rice and Rutgers universities have published a new theory that explains some of the complex electronic and magnetic properties of iron "pnictides." In a series of startling discoveries this spring, pnictides were shown to superconduct at relatively high temperatures.
The surprising discoveries created a great deal of excitement in the condensed matter physics community, which has been scrambling to better understand and document the unexpected results.
High-temperature superconductivity -- a phenomenon first documented in 1986 -- remains one of the great, unexplained mysteries of condensed matter physics. Until the discovery of the iron pnictides (pronounced NIK-tides), the phenomena was limited to a class of copper-based compounds called "cuprates" (pronounced COO-prayts).
The new pnictide theory appears in this week's issue of Physical Review Letters.
"There is a great deal of excitement in the quantum condensed matter community about the iron pnictides," said paper co-author Qimiao Si, Rice University theoretical physicist. "For more than 20 years, our perspective was limited to cuprates, and it is hoped that this new class of materials will help us understand the mechanism for high-temperature superconductivity."
From its initial discovery, high-temperature superconductivity came as a shock to physicists. Superconductors are materials that conduct electricity without any resistance, and in 1986, the prevailing theory of superconductivity held that the phenomenon could not occur at temperatures greater than about 30 kelvins (minus 405 degrees Fahrenheit). Some cuprates have since been discovered to superconduct at temperatures higher than 140 kelvins.
The 2006 discovery of superconductivity in one iron pnictide did not receive much notice from the physics community, since it occurred only below several kelvins. In February 2008, a group from Japan discovered superconductivity above 20 kelvins in another of the iron pnictides. In March and April, several research groups from China showed that related iron pnictides superconduct at temperatures greater than 50 kelvins.
In their new theory, Si and Rutgers University theorist Elihu Abrahams explain some of the similarities and differences between cuprates and pnictides. The arrangement of atoms in both types of materials creates a "strongly correlated electron system" in which electrons interact in a coordinated way and behave collectively.
Si and Abrahams propose that the pnictides exhibit a property called "magnetic frustration," a particular atomic arrangement that suppresses the natural tendency of iron atoms to magnetically order themselves in relation to each other. These frustration effects enhance magnetic quantum fluctuations, which may be responsible for the high-temperature superconductivity.
"Precisely how this happens is one of the challenging questions in strongly correlated electron systems," Abrahams said. "But even though we don't know the precise mechanism, we are still able to make some general predictions about the behavior of pnictides, and we've suggested a number of experiments that can test these predictions." The tests include some specific forms of the electronic spectrum and spin states.
Jade Boyd | EurekAlert!
UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion
16.11.2018 | University of New Hampshire
NASA keeps watch over space explosions
16.11.2018 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.
Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure
Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Event News
16.11.2018 | Health and Medicine
16.11.2018 | Life Sciences
16.11.2018 | Life Sciences