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

become superconducting at 150 degrees Kelvin or minus 253 degrees Fahrenheit. They can be cooled with liquid nitrogen, which is cheaper than liquid helium, making them of greater interest to industry. But do electrons bond in these materials, scientists have wondered, the same general way as in the lower temperature materials" The team with the new results says, "No."

The Princeton scientists say that high-temperature superconductivity does not hinge on a magical glue binding electrons together. The secret to superconductivity, they say, may rest instead on electrons ability to take advantage of their natural repulsion in a complex situation.

Having developed the ability to measure with high precision how nature allows electron pairs to form, the team, which included postdoctoral fellow Abhay Pasupathy and graduate students Aakash Pushp and Kenjiro Gomes, looked to see if there were other types of experimental signatures that could give clues to the mechanism of pairing. They found that when the samples were heated up to very high temperatures at which electrons no longer paired up, the electrons that had been superconducting at colder temperatures exhibited unique quantum properties at warmer temperatures indicating they possessed extremely strong repulsive forces.

Unlike the electrons studied in low-temperature superconducting materials, the electrons in high-temperature superconductors that are most likely to bond and flow effortlessly are the ones that repel others the strongest when the environment is not conducive to superconductivity.

The Princeton team used a specialized scanning tunneling microscope to measure with high precision how nature allows electron pairs to form. "What we have found is that the traditional signatures of what some might call the 'glue' are there we can measure them with high accuracy on the atomic scale," Yazdani said. "They don't control the formation of the superconducting pairs, though. They are more like spe
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Contact: Diane Banegas
dbanegas@nsf.gov
703-292-4489
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

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