Using big databases to find superconductors of the future

January 7, 2019, Science and Technology of Advanced Materials
Using big databases to find superconductors of the future
A data-driven approach helps identify superconducting materials. Credit: National Institute for Materials Science

Japanese researchers have found an approach to more quickly and successfully identify superconducting materials.

"The data-driven approach shows promising power to accelerate the discovery of new thermoelectric and ," the researchers say in their study published in the journal Science and Technology of Advanced Materials.

Superconductors are materials that conduct electricity with virtually no resistance. Superconducting materials have improved the field of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and have led to the development of particle colliders that can be used for research related to splitting atoms. Currently available superconducting materials can only perform at extremely low temperatures. If researchers can find superconducting materials that work at ambient temperature, electricity could be conducted over large distances without energy loss.

Current approaches to searching for these materials are somewhat random, and results strongly depend on researcher's intuition, experience and luck. Materials scientist Yoshihiko Takano of Japan's National Institute for Materials Science and colleagues have shown that sifting through an inorganic materials database using specific search parameters can provide a more systematic way to finding superconducting materials.

They searched through AtomWork, a large database for inorganic materials. In a previous study using this same approach, the team identified SnBi2Se4 (a compound of tin, bismuth, and selenium) as a potential superconductor. Experiments showed that this was indeed the case.

But SnBi2Se4 requires very low temperatures and high pressures to become superconductive. The team searched once more through the database, selecting that have a similar crystal structure to SnBi2Se4 but a narrower 'band gap', a property related to atomic structure that allows electrons to jump up from one energy level to another and thus partake in electrical conductivity.

Their best choice was PbBi2Te4 (formed of lead, bismuth, and tellurium). They synthesised PbBi2Te4 crystals, examined their structure, chemical composition and other properties, and found that those properties met the predictions. They exposed the crystals to high pressures and varying temperatures and found that the electrical resistance of PbBi2Te4 decreased with increasing pressure, reaching a superconductive state at 10 gigapascals, about half the pressure needed for SnBi2Se4 to become superconductive.

"This work presents a case study for the important first-step for the next-generation data-driven ," the team concludes.

Explore further: Discovery of new superconducting materials using materials informatics

More information: Ryo Matsumoto et al. Data-driven exploration of new pressure-induced superconductivity in PbBi2Te4, Science and Technology of Advanced Materials (2018). DOI: 10.1080/14686996.2018.1548885

Related Stories

Recommended for you

ATLAS experiment observes light scattering off light

March 20, 2019

Light-by-light scattering is a very rare phenomenon in which two photons interact, producing another pair of photons. This process was among the earliest predictions of quantum electrodynamics (QED), the quantum theory of ...

How heavy elements come about in the universe

March 19, 2019

Heavy elements are produced during stellar explosion or on the surfaces of neutron stars through the capture of hydrogen nuclei (protons). This occurs at extremely high temperatures, but at relatively low energies. An international ...

Trembling aspen leaves could save future Mars rovers

March 18, 2019

Researchers at the University of Warwick have been inspired by the unique movement of trembling aspen leaves, to devise an energy harvesting mechanism that could power weather sensors in hostile environments and could even ...

Quantum sensing method measures minuscule magnetic fields

March 15, 2019

A new way of measuring atomic-scale magnetic fields with great precision, not only up and down but sideways as well, has been developed by researchers at MIT. The new tool could be useful in applications as diverse as mapping ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.