Sharpening Images of High-Temperature Superconductors

New exploration techniques could pave the way to room-temperature superconductivity, everyday applications

EVENT: Despite their name, “high-temperature” superconductors, which carry electric current with no energy loss, require pretty chilly conditions — all far below freezing and some not far from absolute zero (-273 degrees Celsius). To understand how these materials work — and possibly make them practical for everyday uses like more efficient power transmission — Peter Johnson, a physicist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, develops new techniques to get a better look at the electron pairing that makes superconductivity possible. Johnson, who shared this year’s APS Oliver E. Buckley Prize in Condensed Matter Physics for his innovations in superconductivity exploration, will talk about the challenges in the field and the latest advances in tools meant to probe the mysteries of high-temperature superconductors.

WHEN: Wednesday, March 23, 2011, 3:06 p.m. Central Time

WHERE: March 2011 American Physical Society meeting, Dallas Convention Center, Dallas, TX, Ballroom A3

BACKGROUND: Understanding what holds electron pairs together in high-temperature superconductors is one of the biggest problems in condensed matter physics. Like traditional superconductors, high-temperature superconductors can carry electrical current with no resistance, or loss. But because they can operate at temperatures much warmer than conventional superconductors, which must be cooled to near absolute zero (0 Kelvin or -273 degrees Celsius), high-temperature superconductors have the potential for real-world applications. In both types of materials, conventional and high-temperature superconductors, superconductivity is achieved when pairs of electrons carry the current. If scientists can unravel the current-carrying mechanism, they may even be able to discover or design versions that operate at room temperature for applications such as zero-loss power transmission lines. At Brookhaven, Johnson has developed several improvements to a technique called angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy — used to probe the properties of electrons. One improvement has resulted in sharper images of the electron energy spectra in high-temperature superconductors, which provides scientists with previously unobserved details about electron pairing.

This research is funded by the DOE Office of Science.

2011-11251  |  INT/EXT  |  Newsroom