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Breaking electron waves provide new clues to high-temperature superconductivity

Superconductivity is a sought-after effect, but unfortunately it only enters this state at extremely low temperatures. Normal conductors are wasteful and inefficient so the desire to understand superconductivity and replicate the effects at higher temperatures is paramount.

A team of scientists now believe they may just be on the edge of these important insights. In an experiment conducted at Brookhaven National Laboratory, the team led by Hu Miao utilized a technique called resonant inelastic x-ray scattering (RIXS) to track position and charge of the electrons.

What they found is that at high temperatures when superconductivity vanishes powerful waves of electrons begin to uncouple and behave independently. Studying these waves allows a new way of exploring the relationship between spin and charge – which seems to be affected when transitioning from the hottest temperatures allowable for superconductivity – that is still well below zero degrees Fahrenheit – to the temperatures where superconductivity vanishes. One of the key features observed are spatially modulated stripes which disappear when superconductivity is present indicating that they are a result of the strong relationship between spin and charge that is seen at these low temperatures.

Understanding this realm may indeed unlock the mysteries of superconductivity and allow us to get much improved techniques to achieve superconductivity at higher temperatures.


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