When there are several processes going on at once, establishing cause-and-effect relationships is difficult. This scenario holds true for a class of high-temperature superconductors known as the cuprates. Discovered nearly 35 years ago, these copper-oxygen compounds can conduct electricity without resistance under certain conditions. They must be chemically modified ("doped") with additional atoms that introduce electrons or holes (electron vacancies) into the copper-oxide layers and cooled to temperatures below 100 Kelvin—significantly warmer temperatures than those needed for conventional superconductors. But exactly how electrons overcome their mutual repulsion and pair up to flow freely in these materials remains one of the biggest questions in condensed matter physics. High-temperature superconductivity (HTS) is among many phenomena occurring due to strong interactions between electrons, making it difficult to determine where it comes from.
That's why physicists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory studying a well-known cuprate containing layers made of bismuth oxide, strontium oxide, calcium, and copper oxide (BSCCO) decided to focus on the less complicated "overdoped" side, doping the material so much so that superconductivity eventually disappears. As they reported in a paper published on Jan. 29 in Nature Communications, this approach enabled them to identify that purely electronic interactions likely lead to HTS.To read more, click here.