A team of international scientists led by physicists from the University of Waterloo continue to research into the properties of superconductivity – a situation where electricity is conducted with almost zero resistance in certain materials.
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Physicists are convinced that if they understand this phenomenon and able to recreate it at closer to room temperatures, that they could be able to create ultra-efficient power grids and magnetically levitating vehicles among other great technologies.
In a study published in the journal Science, the Waterloo physicist David Hawthorn, Canada Research Chair Michel Gingras, doctoral student Andrew Achkar, and post-doctoral student Zhihao Hao showed proof of electronic nematicity – a situation whereby electron clouds snap into an aligned and directional order in a specific type of high-temperature superconductor.
“In this study, we identify some unexpected alignment of the electrons – a finding that is likely generic to the high-temperature superconductors and in time may turn out be a key ingredient of the problem,” said Hawthorn, a professor in Waterloo’s Department of Physics and Astronomy.
The proof the scientists put forward indicate that electronic nematicity is a general feature of cuprate high-temperature superconductors – where cuprates are copper-oxide ceramics made up of two-dimensional layers of planes of copper and oxygen atoms divided largely by other atoms.
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“It has become apparent in the past few years that the electrons involved in superconductivity can form patterns, stripes or checkerboards, and exhibit different symmetries – aligning preferentially along one direction,” Hawthorn revealed. “These patterns and symmetries have important consequences for superconductivity – they can compete, coexist or possibly even enhance superconductivity.”