Some Superconductors Defy Theory

Guest_Jim_* - April 3, 2013 01:55PM in Science & Technology

One of the most wonderful and scary parts of physics is finding a counterexample to accepted theory. This is wonderful because it means there is something new to discover, but it is also scary because it could mean that what you think is true could be very wrong. Researchers at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign have recently been faced with the dilemma of a counterexample concerning cuprate superconductors, which are odd enough as they are.

There is a theorem in physics which states that the total number of charge carriers in a conductor is the total number of electrons in all of the atoms that make up the conductor. Superconductors are not like normal conductors though as they allow currents to flow without resistance, but usually they obey the theorem. What the researchers found though is that at certain energy levels, the total charge of cuprate superconductors is less than the needed number of charge carriers, thus making them a counterexample to the theorem.

Exactly what these extra charge carrying particles may be is unknown for now. On possibility the researchers are exploring is something called 'unparticles,' but no matter the name, they will likely be unusual.

Source: University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign