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Attraction at the atomic level
Date:4/10/2008

Countless romance novels begin with a hero and heroine who initially repel each other, only to find them thrown together in uncomfortable circumstances and ultimately rejoice as their antagonism switches to ardor.

Odd as it seems, this tried-and-true romantic formula may also describe the scintillating secret behind the science of superconductivity the phenomenon that occurs when materials conduct electricity across huge distances without losing any energy due to resistance from the transporting medium.

It appears that the electrons with the strongest repulsion in one situation are the most adept at superconductivity in another, said Ali Yazdani, professor of physics at Princeton University, and lead author on a paper just published in Science Magazine. Its counterintuitive, but thats whats happening.

This research was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers Program through the Princeton Center for Complex Materials, and by a Major Research Instrumentation Award from NSF. Additional funding came from the U.S. Department of Energy.

These research results are of fundamental importance, said NSF Program Manager Charles Bouldin. By showing that a fundamentally different electron pairing mechanism exists in high-temperature superconductors, this work will move the field in new directions, and will help find new materials to investigate,

Superconductivity was first discovered in 1911 in mercury when the material was cooled to the temperature of liquid helium, 4 degrees Kelvin or minus 452 degrees Fahrenheit. Scientists in later years would come to understand low-temperature superconductivity as a phenomenon that occurs when electrons interact with vibrations of the material's lattice structure and join into pairs that are able to travel through a conductor without being scattered by atoms. High-temperature superconductors such as copper oxide were discovered in 1986. They
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Contact: Diane Banegas
dbanegas@nsf.gov
703-292-4489
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

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