Researchers at the University of Valencia show that the superconducting state can be maintained even when the material in question is reduced from three to two dimensions, making the efficiency gains needed for technologies like those underlying the frictionless train possible.
An international research team led by Eugenio Coronado, of the Univeristy of Valencia’s Institute of Molecular Science (ICMol) has shown that it is possible to maintain superconductivity at the two-dimensional limit, currently one of the most hotly debated issues in solid state physics. This finding allows us to advance our understanding of superconductivity and paves the way for the miniaturisation of ultrasensitive magnetic field detectors. The work was published in Nature Communications.
Superconductivity is one of the most fascinating quantum phenomena in physics. In the superconducting state, materials conduct electricity without energy loss, which makes them very efficient for many applications including the manufacture of the strongest known magnets, ultrasensitive magnetic field detectors, efficient energy conduction and frictionless transportation (levitating trains).
Since its discovery in 1911, one of the issues that has most intrigued scientists is whether it is possible to maintain the superconducting state even when the material is reduced from three to two dimensions. Intuitively we expect that it would be more difficult to stabilise the superconducting state when the dimensionality is reduced. With the isolation of graphene, the first two-dimensional material, made up of a single layer of carbon atoms, the issue been pushed resolutely to the fore. However, despite graphene’s extraordinary mechanical, electrical and magnetic properties, superconductivity has so far remained an elusive property.
Based at the UV’s Science Park, ICMol researchers have shown that superconductivity can indeed be maintained at this two-dimensional limit. The researchers have studied layered materials similar to graphene, but which become superconductors when cooled to low temperatures. Specifically, they have studied the electrical properties of a large family of layered materals known as metal dichalcogenides.