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August 27, 2012

Adjusting superconductor properties with light

Eurekalert - Scientists have long sought ways to increase the critical temperature of superconducting materials, making them more practical. One of these methods includes chemical doping, removing or adding ions such as oxygen to alter the critical temperature of the material. But Prof. Dagan said that he and his fellow researchers were inspired to find a simpler way.

In the lab, they put a thin layer, one organic molecule thick, atop a superconducting film, approximately 50 nanometers thick. When researchers shined a light on these molecules, the molecules stretched and changed shape, altering the properties of the superconducting film — most importantly, altering the critical temperature at which the material acted as a superconductor.

The researchers tested three separate molecules. The first was able to increase the critical temperature of the superconducting film. With the second molecule, they found that shining an ultraviolet light heightened the material's critical temperature, while visible light lowered it. Finally, with the third molecule, they found that simply by turning a light on, critical temperature was raised — and lowered again when the light was switched off. Prof. Dagan calls this discovery a new "knob" for controlling the temperature of superconducting materials.

One of the potential future applications of this finding might be a "non-dissipated memory," which would be able to save data and run continuously without generating heat and wasting energy.




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