An international team of researchers has uncovered the atomic mechanism behind high-temperature superconductors, a finding that could be revolutionary for super-efficient electrical power.
In a paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the researchers explain that certain copper oxide materials demonstrate superconductivity at higher temperatures than conventional superconductors, however, the mechanism behind this has remained unknown since their discovery in 1987.
To investigate this, the group developed two new microscopy techniques. The first of these measured the difference in energy between the copper and oxygen atom orbitals, as a function of their location. The second method measured the amplitude of the electron-pair wave function – the strength of the superconductivity – at every oxygen atom and at every copper atom.
“By visualizing the strength of the superconductivity as a function of differences between orbital energies, for the first time ever we were able to measure precisely the relationship required to validate or invalidate one of the leading theories of high-temperature superconductivity, at the atomic scale,” lead researcher Séamus Davis said in a media statement.
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