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August 16, 2006

UA Physicist Discovers Exotic Superconductivity

UA Associate Professor of Physics Andrei Lebed has discovered that strong magnetism changes the basic, intrinsic properties of electrons flowing through superconductors, establishing an "exotic" superconductivity.

UA physics graduate student Omjyoti Dutta and Lebed are now collaborating on more detailed theoretical studies of exotic superconducting phases. They have very recently discovered that "time-reversal" symmetry also breaks down in exotic Cooper pairs.

Time reversal symmetry is the idea that most fundamental physical laws would not change if time ran backwards instead of forward.

"This is the most fundamental symmetry in physics and breaks down only in some rare processes in high energy, or elementary particle, physics," Lebed said.

But the UA physicists find that time-reversal symmetry is broken because of the simultaneous rotating and non-rotating average spins of exotic Cooper pairs. "Half of the exotic Cooper pair electrons 'see' time directed from the past to the future, whereas the other half 'see' time directed from the future to the past," Lebed said.

It's important to note that our theoretical results are very general," he said. "They are based on a mathematical theorem and have to be experimentally applied to most kinds of existing superconducting materials, including high-temperature superconductors."

The UA physicists are designing simple experiments for observing exotic superconductivity.

"We hope that our discovery of the exotic behavior of superconductivity in high magnetic fields eventually improves our understanding of how to most efficiently produce strong persistent currents in superconductors," Lebed said.

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