Bridging the pseudogap: a small step forward in understanding superconductivity

A team of scientists from Brookhaven National Laboratory have linked, for the first time, a weird electron arrangement that occurs just before a material becomes superconductive, and the way in which the electron’s movements in a material seem to be restricted at the same time.

Superconductivity happens when a material is in just the right state (normally very, very cold) for the electrons within it to flow freely in all directions, unrestricted and unresisted. It’s potentially a very powerful property, with a host of applications for computing and power supply to name just two.

One of the big difficulties is that materials have to be very cold to become superconductive – the copper oxide material that this team used had to be cooled to below -100 degrees Celsius, and even then had to have extra electrons added (a process known as ‘doping’) to reach superconducting levels.

But before the material even reaches the superconducting stage, there’s a period known as the ‘pseudogap’, where the electrons start behaving in a superconductive way, but seem to be restricted. At the same time, a strange repeated pattern of electrons emerges, called ‘stripes’ or ‘density waves’.  The team at Brookhaven, through a detailed and time-consuming set of measurements, have shown that this pattern is actually what’s restricting the electrons’ movement.

So in order to clear the way for superconductivity before having to reach the super-cool temperatures, scientists now need to find a way to stop these ‘stripes’ appearing in their chosen materials – hopefully bringing us a step closer to room-temperature superconductivity.

[Source: ScienceDaily]

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