Superconductors feel the pressure

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Boffins at Stanford University claim to have found a way to create "high temperature" superconductors..

Boffins at Stanford University claim to have found a way to create "high temperature" superconductors.

Traditional methods of manufacturing superconductors require cooling the materials close to absolute zero.

But scientists have discovered that the superconducting state can be induced by high pressure. The findings will be published in the 30 May issue of Physical Review Letters.

Early superconductors had to be cooled to below 20 degrees Kelvin or -423 degrees Fahrenheit.

But in the 1980s scientists discovered a class of 'high-temperature' superconductors made of ceramic copper oxides called cuprates.

They found that these materials transition into superconductors at temperatures as 'high' as 135 Kelvin or -216 degrees Fahrenheit.

Alexander Goncharov, co-author of the study, said: "Over the years scientists have found that the transition temperature can be increased with a specific amount of 'doping'.

"This is the addition of charged particles, either negatively charged electrons or positively charged holes.

"Pressure has the added bonus that it can be applied gradually, like tuning a radio. We gradually tuned in to the superconductivity and could watch what happened over a broad range of pressures."

Tanja Cuk, the lead author and a student at Stanford University, added: "By compressing the structure, we were able to observe changes in six different physical properties.

"But even more exciting, the changes were similar to those observed when the material has been doped to its optimal level. This means that the critical pressure is likely to be related to doping.

"Plus, by finding that pressure can be used instead of temperature and doping, we have found an entirely new approach to studying what is behind the superconducting properties of high-temperature superconductors."

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