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Physics, new light on high-temperature superconductivity (Press review)

The Italian study, published in the prestigious journal “Science”, reveals the mechanisms behind high-temperature superconductivity, with major implications for the transport of energy without dissipation.

A room-temperature superconductor that can transport energy produced by solar power plants in the Sahara desert to the four corners of the world without any dissipation of energy: this could be one of the major developments engendered by a discovery made by Italian researchers, which has brought to light one of the key mechanisms behind high-temperature superconductivity.
This discovery, published in the latest issue (30 March) of the journal Science, was made possible by innovative experimental techniques developed in Italy, in the laboratories of the Catholic University in Brescia, in collaboration with the T-Rex labs of Sincrotrone Trieste S.C.p.A. and the University of Trieste. The new results show that in superconductive copper oxides, electrons are not paired through the conventional mechanisms that imply a deformation of their crystalline structure, but rather through magnetic polarity fluctuations. Optimizing and engineering this mechanism might pave the way for room-temperature superconductivity, with countless repercussions both in terms of basic knowledge and technological applications. In general, when electricity passes through copper wiring, the latter heats up and dissipates energy under the form of heat. In common metals, these energy losses become essentially equal to zero at a temperature of minus 269 degrees Celsius, when the system becomes a superconductor. In more complex, recently-discovered systems, such as copper oxides, superconductivity occurs at temperatures that are ten times higher. A better understanding of high-temperature superconductivity would make it possible to design electronic devices that can work without heating up and transport electricity with unprecedented efficiency, with major energy savings, and produce extremely high magnetic fields, which are indispensable in the fields of transport and medical diagnostics, such as nuclear magnetic resonance. This study, a collaborative effort between Italy, Switzerland, Canada, and the United States, has allowed Dr. Claudio Giannetti, of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart and the newly-established Interdisciplinary Laboratories for Advanced Materials Physics (i-LAMP) in Brescia to shed detailed light on the nature of the forces behind high-temperature superconductivity.

Last Updated on Thursday, 07 June 2012 16:27