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Hydride research pushes frontiers of practical, accessible superconductivity

University of houston hydride research pushes frontiers of practical, accessible superconductivity
Synthesis of Y0.5Ce0.5 hydrides at extreme conditions (high pressure and high temperature). a Schematic diagram of the experimental setup for the measurements. The arrows represent the laser beam directions for the Raman scattering and heating measurements. b Optical micrographs of the sample chambers containing NH3BH3 (AB) and Pt electrodes in the representative cells (Cell-6 and Cell-7) before and after laser heating. The edges of Y-Ce film are marked with the red lines, and the blue arrows in the right photos indicate the parts with apparent changes after heating. c Raman spectra for the synthesized Y0.5Ce0.5 hydrides collected at the apparent-changing parts (blue arrows in the right Fig. 1b) in the sample chamber. The Raman bands of the diamond and H2 after laser heating are presented. The low-frequency Raman spectra are scaled for the clarity. Credit: Nature Communications (2024). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-024-46133-x

Science is taking a step forward in the quest for superconductors that will not require ultra-high pressure to function, thanks to multinational research led by Xiaojia Chen at the University of Houston.

"It has long been superconductivity researchers' goal to ease or even eliminate the critical controls currently required regarding temperature and ," said Chen, the M.D. Anderson Professor of Physics at UH's College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and a principal investigator at the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH.

The evolution toward eliminating the current special handling now required by superconductive material—which is defined as material that offers little or no impedance from or magnetic fields—hints that the potential for radical boosts in efficiency for certain processes in research, health care, industry, and other commercial enterprises might become reality before long.

But currently, the conditions needed for successful superconductivity outstretch the resources of many potential users, even many research laboratories.

Chen explains that lowering the accessible pressure for superconductivity is one important goal of the current studies on hydrides. "But the experiments are still challenged in providing a set of convincing evidence," he said.

"For example, rare-earth hydrides have been reported to exhibit superconductivity near room temperature. This is based on the observations of two essential characteristics—the zero-resistance state and the Meissner effect," Chen said.

(The Meissner effect, discovered in 1933, recognizes a decrease or reverse in magnetism as a material achieves superconductivity, providing physicists with a method to measure the change.)

"However, these superconducting rare-earth materials performed on target only at extremely high pressures. To make progress, we have to reduce synthesis pressure as low as possible, ideally to atmosphere conditions," Chen explained.

Chen's team found their breakthrough with their choice of conductive media—alloys of , which are lab-made metallic substances that include hydrogen molecules with two electrons. Specifically, they worked with yttrium-cerium hydrides (Y0.5Ce0.5H9) and lanthanum-cerium hydrides (La0.5Ce0.5H10).

The inclusion of Cerium (Ce) was seen to make a key difference.

"These observations were suggested due to the enhanced chemical pre-compression effect through the introduction of the Ce element in these superhydrides," Chen explained.

Two journal articles detail the team's findings. The more recent, in Nature Communications, focuses on yttrium-cerium hydrides; the other, in Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter, concentrates on lanthanum-cerium hydrides.

The team has found these superconductors can maintain relatively high transition temperatures. In other words, the lanthanum-cerium hydrides and yttrium-cerium hydrides are capable of superconductivity in less extreme conditions (at lower pressure but maintaining relatively higher transition temperature) than has been accomplished before.

"This moves us forward in our evolution toward a workable and relatively available superconductive media," Chen said. "We subjected our findings to multiple measurements of the electrical transport, synchrotron X-ray diffraction, Raman scattering, and theoretical calculations. The tests confirmed that our results remain consistent."

"This finding points to a route toward high-temperature superconductivity that can be accessible in many current laboratory settings," Chen explained. The hydride research moves the frontier far beyond the recognized standard set by copper oxides (also known as cuprates).

"We still have a way to go to reach truly ambient conditions. The goal remains to achieve at room temperature and in pressure equivalent to our familiar ground-level atmosphere. So the research goes on," Chen said.

More information: Liu-Cheng Chen et al, Synthesis and superconductivity in yttrium-cerium hydrides at high pressures, Nature Communications (2024). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-024-46133-x

Ge Huang et al, Synthesis of superconducting phase of La0.5Ce0.5H10 at high pressures, Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter (2023). DOI: 10.1088/1361-648X/ad0915

Journal information: Nature Communications

Citation: Hydride research pushes frontiers of practical, accessible superconductivity (2024, April 29) retrieved 22 June 2024 from
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