Discovered more than 100 years ago, superconductivity continues to captivate scientists who seek to develop components for highly efficient energy transmission, ultrafast electronics or quantum bits for next-generation computation. However, determining what causes substances to become — or stop being — superconductors remains a central question in finding new candidates for this special class of materials.
In potential superconductors, there may be several ways electrons can arrange themselves. Some of these reinforce the superconducting effect, while others inhibit it. In a new study, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have explained the ways in which two such arrangements compete with each other and ultimately affect the temperature at which a material becomes superconducting.
Image: This image shows the transition between Cooper pair density (indicated by blue dots) and charge density waves. Argonne scientists found that by introducing defects, they could disrupt charge density waves and increase superconductivity.
Credit: Ellen Weiss / Argonne National Laboratory