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Thursday, February 14, 2008

MIT achieves superconducting insight

U.S. physicists said they have achieved a new understanding of high temperature superconductors that might overturn many existing theories.
Superconductors are able to transmit electricity with no resistance at temperatures well above absolute zero. Scientists have long understood that if superconductors could be made to work at room temperatures, they would have potentially limitless applications.

In the new study, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers looked at the state of that superconductors inhabit just above the temperature at which they start to superconduct -- a state called the pseudogap. It had already been shown that natural impurities in a superconducting material, such as a missing or replaced atom, allow electrons to reach energy levels normally within the superconducting gap, so they can scatter.

The new MIT study shows scattering by impurities occurs not only when a material is in the pseudogap state but also when it's in the superconducting state.

The finding challenges the theory that the pseudogap is only a precursor state to the superconductive state and offers evidence that the two states can coexist, the physicists said.

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