Every standard cable, every wire, every electronic device has some electric resistance. There are, however, superconducting materials with the ability to conduct electrical current with a resistance of exactly zero – at least at very low temperatures. Finding a material which behaves as a superconductor at room temperature would be a scientific breakthrough of incredible conceptual and technological importance. It could lead to a wide range of new applications, from levitating trains to new imaging technologies for medicine.
The search for high-temperature superconductors isextremelydifficult, because many of the quantum effects related to superconductivity are not yet well understood. Professor Neven Barišic, professor for solid state physics at TU Wien (Vienna) is performing experiments with cuprates, a class of materials which behave as a superconductor at record temperatures as high as 140K at ambient pressure. Barišic and his colleagues have now come up with a remarkable set of results and new insights that could profoundly change the way we think about these complex materials and high-temperature superconductivity in general.
"The phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity has been thoroughly investigated for decades, but nobody has cracked the problem yet," says Neven Barišic. "Quite a few materials showsuperconductingbehaviour at temperatures close to absolute zero, and we understand why this happens in some of them. But the real challenge is to understand superconductivity in cuprates, where this states persists at much higher temperatures. A material which behaves as a superconductor at room temperature would be the Holy Grail of solid state physics – and we are getting closer and closer."