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Scientists have found the first direct evidence that a mysterious phase of matter known as the "pseudogap" competes with high-temperature superconductivity, robbing it of electrons that otherwise might pair up to carry current through a material with 100 percent efficiency.

The result, led by researchers at Stanford University and the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, is the culmination of 20 years of research aimed at finding out whether the pseudogap helps or hinders , which could transform society by making electrical transmission, computing and other areas much more energy efficient.

The new study definitively shows that the pseudogap is one of the things that stands in the way of getting to work at higher temperatures for everyday uses, said lead author Makoto Hashimoto, a staff scientist at SLAC's Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL), the DOE Office of Science User Facility where the experiments were carried out. The results were published in Nature Materials.

"Now we have clear, smoking-gun evidence that the pseudogap phase competes with and suppresses superconductivity," Hashimoto said. "If we can somehow remove this competition, or handle it better, we may be able to raise the operating temperatures of these superconductors."

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