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November 1st, 2008

Thin film sandwich feeds hunger for superconductors

Published on November 1st, 2008 | By: pwray@ceramics.org

Ivan Bozovic leads Brookhaven's thin film superconductor project.
Though looking sort of glum at the time, Ivan Bozovic is successfully leading Brookhaven Labs’ thin-film superconductor project.

Researchers at DOE’s Brookhaven National Lab have developed a sandwich of thin films that, at the point where the films touch, offers a nanometer-sized area of superconductivity. Moreover, as reported in the Oct. 9 edition of Nature magazine, the superconductivity takes place at the relatively high temperature of 50 Kelvin (minus 223.15°C) – a temp the Brookhaven team believes can be tweaked even higher.

“What we have done is, we have put together two materials – neither of which is a superconductor – and we found their interface, where they touch, is superconducting,” announces physicist Ivan Bozovic, the project’s leader, in an Oct. 8 Reuters.com article. “It opens vistas for further progress, including using these techniques to significantly enhance  superconducting properties in other known or new superconductors,” Bozovic continues, explaining the significance of his team’s development.

The hope, of course, is to produce a superconductor that can operate at room temperatures, eliminating the need for expensive cryogens and opening the door to more affordable and practical electrical devices, power grids and – just possibly – solutions to the world’s energy crisis. Bozovic says as much on Brookhaven’s website:

“Further study of the temperature-enhancement mechanism might even tell us something about the big puzzle – the mechanism underlying high-temperature superconductivity, which remains one of the most important open problems in condensed matter.”

He says that now researchers can focus on accomplishing this goal by creating a variety of sandwiches from a broad range of nonsuperconducting materials.

“It is too early to tell what applications this research might yield, but already at this stage we can speculate that this brings us one big step closer to the fabrication of useful three-terminal superconducting devices, such as a superconductive field-effect transistor.”

Brookhaven has filed a U.S. provisional patent application for this work. Interested in licensing information? Contact Kimberly Elcess, 631-344-4151, for details.


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