Superconductors are materials that gain garner unique physical properties at extremely low temperatures. They specifically stop resisting an electric current allowing the current to pass through freely without loss of any energy. They are used in technologies such as MRI machines, electric motors, wireless communications systems and particle accelerators. However, superconductors have not always been quite understood but new interdisciplinary research on cuprate crystal systems, one of the most commonly used superconducting materials, may provide more answers.
A graphic illustration of a superconductor cuprate system.
Credit: Cockrell School of Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin
Specifically, a research study published in Nature, confirmed the existence of a phase transition at a temperature close to absolute zero degrees, higher than the temperature required for many superconductors, in copper-oxide-based (or cuprate) superconductive materials. According to findings, researchers believe that during this phase transition, the "quantum critical point," is when superconductivity actually occurs.
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"'Quantum criticality' had been proposed as one potential factor for facilitating superconductivity in cuprate systems," explains research leader, Jianshi Zhou, a research professor of mechanical engineering in the Cockrell School of Engineering and a member of The University of Texas at Austin's Texas Materials Institute. "Our study confirms this to be the case. Understanding why these materials become superconductors will lead us to this holy grail of room-temperature superconductors. It's only a matter of time, hopefully."
Source: University of Texas