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Coming soon: better superconductors to meet world's energy needs

June 11, 2011 - Washington

A new study on ultra thin slabs of copper-oxide materials could lead to a deeper understanding of the high-temperature superconductivity physics and advance the quest for new and better superconductors for meeting the world's energy needs.

Brookhaven physicist Ivan Bozovic, one of the lead authors on the paper used a specialized atomic-layer-by-layer molecular beam epitaxy method to assemble lanthanum-copper-oxide samples with varying numbers of layers.

The layers were well separated and insulated to prevent any "crosstalk." The thickness was controlled with atomic precision and varied digitally, down to a single copper-oxide plane.

The magnetic measurements revealed that when the slabs containing four or more copper-oxide layers, showed anti-ferromagnetic ordering - just like thick, bulk crystals of the same materials.

However, thinner slabs that contained just one or two copper-oxide layers showed an unexpected result. While the magnetic moments, or spins, were still present and had about the same magnitude, there was no long-range static anti-ferromagnetic order, not even on the scale of a few nanometers.

This effect was stronger the lower the temperature of the sample was.

The research was published online in Physical Review Letters.


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