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A study at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory suggests for the first time how scientists might deliberately engineer superconductors that work at higher temperatures.

In their report, a team led by SLAC and Stanford University researchers explains why a thin layer of iron selenide superconducts -- carries electricity with 100 percent efficiency -- at much higher temperatures when placed atop another material, which is called STO for its main ingredients strontium, titanium and oxygen.

In the new study, the scientists concluded that natural trillion-times-per-second vibrations in the STO travel up into the iron selenide film in distinct packets, like volleys of water droplets shaken off by a wet dog. These vibrations give electrons the energy they need to pair up and superconduct at higher temperatures than they would on their own.

"Our simulations indicate that this approach - using natural vibrations in one material to boost superconductivity in another - could be used to raise the operating temperature of iron-based superconductors by at least 50 percent," said Zhi-Xun Shen, a professor at SLAC and Stanford University and senior author of the study.

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