Solving Superconductivity Puzzles
I cannot guess if the people who discovered superconductors envisioned a future world as electrified as what we live in today, but those working on superconductors now most definitely are. These materials with the ability to transmit electrical currents without energy loss could revolutionize the world, if we could overcome one major issue. Researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory and Cornell University have made discoveries recently that may help bring superconductors out of labs and specialized equipment.
For certain materials to take on their superconducting capabilities they have to be cooled to temperatures well below what we live at. Even high temperature superconductors still require being chilled to below -100 ºC, depending on their critical temperature. Exactly what happens as a material approaches their critical temperature is not particularly well known or understood, and the appearance of behaviors that compete with superconductivity does not help matter. Among these behaviors are electron density waves, which restrict the direction of flow for electrons. To study it the researchers used a new, advanced spectroscopic imaging scanning tunneling microscope capable of observing the positions of static electrons and the direction of moving ones. They analyzed multiple samples of the superconductor at various levels of doping, to determine what is happening.
The researchers found that as the doping increased, fewer electrons would be static, which is important as those immovable electrons are what were restricting the flow of those around them. Though it likely will not be this simple, optimizing the doping levels could make the transition to superconducting more efficient, and perhaps help raise the critical temperature..
Source: Brookhaven National Laboratory