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A team of U.S. and Chinese physicists are zeroing in on critical effects at the heart of the latest high-temperature superconductors -- but they're using other materials to do it.

In new research appearing online today in the journal Physical Review Letters, the Rice University-led team offers new evidence about the quantum features of the latest class of high-temperature superconductors, a family of iron-based compounds called "pnictides" (pronounced: NICK-tides).

"In correlated electron systems like the pnictides and their parent compounds, the electrons are caught in a competition between forces," said Rice physicist Qimiao Si, a co-author of the study. "On the one hand, they are compelled to move around, and on the other, they are forced to arrange themselves in a particular way because of their desire to repel one another. In this study, we varied the ratio between these competing forces in an effort to find the tipping point where one takes over from the other."

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