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2Physics Quote:
"Stars with a mass of more than about 8 times the solar mass usually end in a supernova explosion. Before and during this explosion new elements, stable and radioactive, are formed by nuclear reactions and a large fraction of their mass is ejected with high velocities into the surrounding space. Most of the new elements are in the mass range until Fe, because there the nuclear binding energies are the largest. If such an explosion happens close to the sun it can be expected that part of the debris might enter the solar system and therefore should leave a signature on the planets and their moons." -- Thomas Faestermann, Gunther Korschinek (Read Full Article: "Recent Supernova Debris on the Moon" )

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Solving the Superconductor Puzzle

Thomas A. Maier [photo courtesy: Oak Ridge National Laboratory]

Superconducting materials, which transmit power resistance-free, are found to perform optimally when high- and low-charge density varies on the nanoscale level, according to research performed at the US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Institut für Theoretische Physik, Zürich, Switzerland.

In research toward better understanding the dynamics behind high-temperature superconductivity, the ORNL scientists rewrote computational code for the numerical Hubbard model that previously assumed copper-compound superconducting materials known as cuprates to be homogenous — the same electron density — from atom to atom. The paper is published in Physical Review Letters [1].

Lead author Thomas Maier and colleagues Gonzalo Alvarez, Michael Summers and Thomas Schulthess received the Association for Computing Machinery Gordon Bell Prize two years ago for their high-performance computing application. The application has now been used to examine the nanoscale inhomogeneities in superconductors that had long been noticed but left unexplained.

Researchers have found that atom clusters with inhomogenous stripes of lower density (shown in red) raise critical temperature needed to reach superconductor state [Courtsey: ORNL]

"Cuprates and other chemical compounds used as superconductors require very cold temperatures, nearing absolute zero, to transition from a phase of resistance to no resistance," said Jack Wells, director of the Office of Institutional Planning and a former Computational Materials Sciences group leader.

Liquid nitrogen is used to cool superconductors into phase transition. The colder the conductive material has to get to reach the resistance-free superconductor phase, the less efficient and more costly are superconductor power infrastructures. Such infrastructures include those used on magnetic levitation trains, hospital Magnetic Resonance Imaging, particle accelerators and some city power utilities.

In angle-resolved photoemission experiments and transport studies on a cuprate material that exhibits striped electronic inhomogeneity, scientists for years observed that superconductivity is heavily affected by the nanoscale features and in some respect even optimized.

"The goal following the Gordon Bell Prize was to take that supercomputing application and learn whether these inhomogenous stripes increased or decreased the temperature required to reach transition," Wells said. "By discovering that striping leads to a strong increase in critical temperature, we can now ask the question: is there an optimal inhomogeneity?"

In an ideal world, a material could become superconductive at an easily achieved and maintained low temperature, eliminating much of the accompanying cost of the cooling infrastructure.

"The next step in our progress is a hard problem," Wells said. "But from our lab's point of view, all of the major tools suited for studying this phenomenon — the computational codes we've written, the neutron scattering experiments that allow us to examine nanoscale properties — are available to us here."

T. A. Maier, G. Alvarez, M. Summers, T. C. Schulthess, "Dynamic Cluster Quantum Monte Carlo Simulations of a Two-Dimensional Hubbard Model with Stripelike Charge-Density-Wave Modulations: Interplay between Inhomogeneities and the Superconducting State", Phys. Rev. Lett. 104, 247001 (2010).

[We thank Oak Ridge National Laboratory for materials used in this posting]

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At 1:09 PM, Blogger Macksb said...

I suspect that the goal should be to increase the range of communication between electrons. That goal is based on an assumption--namely that some form of synchrony emerges among the electrons at the onset of superconductivity. The low density areas promote a greater range of communication at the electron level because obstacles are removed and "noise" is reduced. The Stanford research on quantum magnets, four or five years ago, showed that "thinning" was helpful there as well. That data might suggest some thinning ideas.


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