Home Science These Superconductors Are Acting “Strange,” and Scientists Finally Know Why

These Superconductors Are Acting “Strange,” and Scientists Finally Know Why

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These Superconductors Are Acting “Strange,” and Scientists Finally Know Why

Superconductivity Physics Concept Art Illustration

Groundbreaking research in superconductivity reveals new insights into high-critical-temperature copper-based superconductors. Collaborative efforts uncovered the strange metal behavior of these superconductors and identified a quantum critical point. Extensive X-ray experiments led to this discovery, which holds promise for future technologies and sustainable solutions. Credit: SciTechDaily.com

Recent research has unlocked key aspects of high-critical-temperature superconductors, identifying their unique ‘strange metal’ state and a crucial quantum critical point. This discovery, resulting from collaborative efforts and extensive experiments, paves the way for advanced superconducting technologies.

Taking a significant step forward in superconductivity research, the discovery could pave the way for sustainable technologies and contribute to a more environmentally friendly future.

The study just published in Nature Communications by researchers from Politecnico di Milano, Chalmers University of Technology in Göteborg, and Sapienza University of Rome sheds light on one of the many mysteries of high-critical-temperature copper-based superconductors: even at temperatures above the critical temperature, they are special, behaving like “strange” metals. This means that their electrical resistance changes with temperature differently than that of normal metals.

The research hints at the existence of a quantum critical point connected to the phase called “strange metal.”

Phase Diagram of Cuprates

Phase diagram of cuprates. Credit: Politecnico di Milano

Strange Metal Behavior and Quantum Critical Point

“A quantum critical point identifies specific conditions where a material undergoes a sudden change in its properties due solely to quantum effects. Just like ice melts and becomes liquid at zero degrees Celsius due to microscopic temperature effects, cuprates turn into a ‘strange’ metal because of quantum charge fluctuations” commented Riccardo Arpaia, researcher at the Department of Microtechnology and Nanoscience at Chalmers and leading author of the study.

The research is based on X-ray scattering experiments conducted at the European Synchrotron ESRF and at the British synchrotron DLS. They reveal the existence of charge density fluctuations affecting the electrical resistance of cuprates in such a way as to make them “strange.” The systematic measurement of how the energy of these fluctuations varies allowed identifying the value of the charge carrier density at which this energy is minimum: the quantum critical point.

ERIXS Instrument European Synchrotron ESRF

The ERIXS instrument of the European Synchrotron ESRF in Grenoble. Credit: Politecnico di Milano

Impact and Future Directions

“This is the result of more than five years of work. We used a technique, called RIXS, largely developed by us at the Politecnico di Milano. Thanks to numerous measurement campaigns and to new data analysis methods, we were able to prove the existence of the quantum critical point. A better understanding of cuprates will guide the design of even better materials, with higher critical temperatures, and therefore easier to exploit in tomorrow’s technologies,” adds Giacomo Ghiringhelli, Professor at the Physics Department of the Politecnico di Milano and coordinator of the research.

Sergio Caprara, together with his colleagues at the Department of Physics of Sapienza University of Rome, came up with the theory that assigns to charge fluctuations a key role in cuprates. He declared “This discovery represents an important advancement in understanding not only the anomalous properties of the metallic state of cuprates, but also the still obscure mechanisms underlying high-temperature superconductivity.”

Reference: “Signature of quantum criticality in cuprates by charge density fluctuations” by Riccardo Arpaia, Leonardo Martinelli, Marco Moretti Sala, Sergio Caprara, Abhishek Nag, Nicholas B. Brookes, Pietro Camisa, Qizhi Li, Qiang Gao, Xingjiang Zhou, Mirian Garcia-Fernandez, Ke-Jin Zhou, Enrico Schierle, Thilo Bauch, Ying Ying Peng, Carlo Di Castro, Marco Grilli, Floriana Lombardi, Lucio Braicovich and Giacomo Ghiringhelli, 8 November 2023, Nature Communications.
DOI: 10.1038/s41467-023-42961-5

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