UBC physicists develop 'impossible' technique to study and develop superconductors

A team of University of British Columbia researchers has developed a technique that controls the number of electrons on the surface of high-temperature superconductors, a procedure considered impossible for the past two decades.

Led by Physics Assoc. Prof. Andrea Damascelli, the team deposited potassium atoms onto the surface of a piece of superconducting copper oxide. The approach allows the scientists to continuously manipulate the number of electrons on ultra-thin layers of material.

The details are published this week in the prestigious journal Nature Physics.

Superconductivity – the phenomenon of conducting electricity with no resistance – occurs in some materials at very low temperatures. High-temperature superconductors are a class of materials capable of conducting electricity with little or no resistance in temperatures as high as -140 degrees Celsius.

"The development of future electronics, such as quantum computer chips, hinges on extremely thin layers of material," says Damascelli, Canada Research Chair in the Electronic Structure of Solids.

"Extremely thin layers and surfaces of superconducting materials take on very different properties from the rest of the material. Electrons have been observed to re-arrange, making it impossible for scientists to study," says Damascelli. "It's become clear in recent years that this phenomenon is both the challenge and key to making great strides in superconductor research.

"The new technique opens the door to systematic studies not just of high-temperature superconductors, but many other materials where surfaces and interfaces control the physical properties," says Damascelli. "The control of surfaces and interfaces plays a vital role in the development of applications such as fuel cells and lossless power lines, and may lead to new materials altogether."

The superconductors Damascelli's team experimented on are the purest samples currently available and were produced at UBC by physicists Doug Bonn, Ruixing Liang and Walter Hardy.

Part of the study was carried out at the Advanced Light Source synchrotron in California. In the future, the design and study of novel complex materials for next-generation technologies will be carried out at the Quantum Materials Spectroscopy Center currently under construction at the Canadian Light Source in Saskatoon under Damascelli's leadership.

Source: University of British Columbia

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User comments

Jun 23, 2008
Anyone actually believe that the people who approve these news bites will ever learn how to fact check them? A substance that is made up of at most 50% copper oxide REALLY shouldn't be called copper oxide. Seriously, people in elementary school know that much. Apparently it was written by the same person who wrote that YSZ is artificial diamonds. I'm really curious as to why there is a general "dumbing down" of the information presented on Physorg, as this is supposed to be a SCIENCE based website. Most people here should be able to follow high school sciences at least.

Jun 23, 2008
However, if you went to Nature Physics before commenting on Physorg's editorial practice, you would find that the substances in the study are generically referred to as "copper oxide superconductors". The text of the NP pre-print 'teaser' is below, the abstract is freely available and the print copy by payment or subscription.

In situ doping control of the surface of high-temperature superconductors

M. A. Hossain, J. D. F. Mottershead, D. Fournier, A. Bostwick, J. L. McChesney, E. Rotenberg, R. Liang, W. N. Hardy, G. A. Sawatzky, I. S. Elfimov, D. A. Bonn & A. Damascelli

Published online: 22 June 2008; | doi:10.1038/nphys998

In copper-oxide superconductors, charge carriers must be added to the insulating 'parent' compound before superconductivity appears. Exactly how the dopants affect the crystalline surface and evolving Fermi surface is now clear.

Jun 24, 2008
This illustrates the importance of order in stringing words together. Precision and accuracey are of paramount importantance in physics and chemistry. It is also basic english (e.g. noun and adjective)

superconducting copper oxide

is not equal to

copper oxide superconductor

They have converted a noun into an adjective noun.
The real question is what is the expected reading ability for this web site. Are we looking at a site designed for 10 year olds?

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