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Room-Temperature Superconductivity: Prospects and Challenges

A call to action to understand the ‘quantum entanglement’ behind high-temperature superconductivity

EVENT: Superconductors that carry current with no resistance at room temperature would revolutionize almost every conceivable electrical and electronic process, resulting, for example, in vastly speedier computers and zero-loss power transmission lines. But according to physicist J.C. Séamus Davis, a Cornell University professor and director of the Center for Emergent Superconductivity at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, the process of getting from a basic understanding of high-temperature superconductors to industrial scale products will be significantly more challenging than industrial physics advances of the last century. Come find out why and learn what’s being done to meet the challenge — and how you might benefit from the rewards.

WHEN: Sunday, March 20, 2011, 1:00 p.m. Central Time

WHERE: March 2011 American Physical Society meeting, Dallas Convention Center, Dallas, TX, Ballroom C1.

BACKGROUND: In the last great revolution in electronics, physicists and engineers learned to conduct the flow of individual electrons using semiconducting transistors as valves to control the logical operations that power our computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices. You can think of this system of conducting electrons as similar to a straightforward system of traffic lights to control the flow of traffic in a very large city. The physics that appears to be necessary for room temperature superconductivity, by comparison, is quantum mechanically “massively entangled.” The electrons in the system are all “correlated,” each interacting with all the others in complex quantum mechanical ways that scientists don’t completely understand. This entanglement is what appears to allow the copper-based high-temperature superconductors to have their unusual, unexpected, and amazing properties – like carrying electrical current with no resistance below a certain transition temperature.

Right now, those temperatures are far below the freezing point of water — much too cold for most real-world applications. To raise the temperature at which these materials operate, scientists need to understand and control how the entangled electronic matter works. Davis’s talk will describe some of the initiatives going on right now to gain that understanding, including direct visualization of the complexity of electronic matter in copper-based superconductors and comparative studies of copper-based superconductors with newly discovered iron-based superconductors. By helping to reveal the common features that enable high-temperature superconductivity in these very different materials, these comparative studies offer a great opportunity to advance the field.

This research is funded by the DOE Office of Science.

2011-1246  |  Media & Communications Office

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