Is this the secret to superconductivity?
The energy equivalent of several kilograms of TNT surged into the coil, bathing the 0.003-carat crystal in its bore in one of the strongest magnetic fields ever generated.
From the magnet came a small boom like the sound of a foot stomping, said engineer Jérôme Béard — but thankfully, no explosion. His calculations held up.
With that magnetic blast and a subsequent series of identical ones executed last winter, researchers at the National Laboratory for Intense Magnetic Fields (LNCMI) in Toulouse, France, uncovered a key property of the crystal, a matte-black ceramic in a class of materials called cuprates that are the most potent superconductors known. The findings, reported today in the journal Nature , provide a major clue about the inner workings of cuprates, and may help scientists understand how these materials allow electricity to flow freely at relatively high temperatures.
“Technically amazing,” said J.C. Séamus Davis , an experimental physicist with appointments at Cornell University, St. Andrews University in Scotland, and Brookhaven National Laboratory who was not involved in the experiment. “The paper is a masterpiece.”
The experimental team, led by LNCMI staff scientist Cyril Proust and Louis Taillefer of the University of Sherbrooke in Canada, used their 90-tesla magnet — which creates a magnetic field nearly two million times as strong as the one enshrouding Earth — to momentarily strip away superconductivity in their cuprate sample. This revealed details of the underlying phase from which the behavior seems to arise.
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SOURCE: World Economic Forum