January 14, 2011

Light transforms material into a superconductor

A non-superconducting material has been transformed into a superconductor using light, Oxford University researchers report.

In the journal Science, they describe how a strong infrared laser pulse was used to perturb the positions of some of the atoms in the material. The compound, held at a temperature just 20 degrees above absolute zero, almost instantaneously became a superconductor for a fraction of a second, before relaxing back to its normal state.

There is a school of thought that it should be possible to achieve superconductivity at much higher temperatures, but that some competing type of order in the material gets in the way,’ says Professor Cavalleri. ‘We should be able to explore this idea and see if we can disrupt the competing order to reveal superconductivity at higher temperatures. It’s certainly worth trying



The advance immediately offers a new way to probe with great control how superconductivity arises in this class of materials, a puzzle ever since high-temperature superconductors were first discovered in 1986.

But the researchers are hopeful it could also offer a new route to obtaining superconductivity at higher temperatures. If superconductors that work at room temperature could be achieved, it would open up many more technological applications.

RELATED RESEARCH

Japanese researchers had found that adding alcohol treatment also improved superconductivty.

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