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Researchers have known about high-temperature superconducting copper-based materials, or cuprates, since the 1980s. Below a certain temperature (approximately -130 degree Celsius), electrical resistance vanishes from these materials and magnetic flux fields are expelled. However, the basis for that superconductivity continues to be debated and explored.

 β€œIt has been widely accepted that traditional superconductors result from electrons interacting with phonons, where the phonons pair two electrons as an entity and the latter can run in a material without resistance,” said Yao Wang, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Clemson University.

However, in cuprates, strong repulsions known as the Coulomb force were found between electrons and were believed to be the cause of this special and high-temperature superconductivity.

Phonons are the vibrational energy that arise from oscillating atoms within a crystal. The behavior and dynamics of phonons are very different from those of electrons, and putting these two interacting pieces of the puzzle together has been a challenge.

In November 2021, writing in the journal Physical Review Letters, Wang, along with researchers from Stanford University, presented compelling evidence that phonons are in fact contributing to a key feature observed in cuprates, which may indicate their indispensable contribution to superconductivity.

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