How can you tell if a material is a superconductor? Four classic signatures are illustrated here. Left to right: 1) It conducts electricity with no resistance when chilled below a certain temperature. 2) It expels magnetic fields, so a magnet placed on top of it will levitate. 3) Its heat capacity – the amount of heat needed to raise its temperature by a given amount – shows a distinctive anomaly as the material transitions to a superconducting state. 4) And at that same transition point, its electrons pair up and condense into a sort of electron soup that allows current to flow freely. Now experiments at SLAC and Stanford have captured this fourth signature in cuprates, which become superconducting at relatively high temperatures, and show that it occurs in two distinct steps and at very different temperatures. Knowing how that happens in fine detail suggests a new and very practical direction for research into these enigmatic materials. (Courtesy: Greg Stewart, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)
Topics: Condensed Matter Physics, Superconductor, Thermodynamics
Researchers in the US report that they have observed the so-called “fourth signature” of superconducting phase transitions in materials known as cuprates. The result, obtained via photoemission spectroscopy of a cuprate called Bi2212, could shed fresh light on how these materials, which conduct electricity without resistance at temperatures of 77 K or higher, transition into the superconducting state.
The superconducting transition occurs when a material loses all resistance to an electrical current below a certain critical temperature Tc. At this temperature, bulk materials exhibit four characteristic “signatures” – electrical, magnetic, thermodynamic, and spectroscopic – indicating that transition has occurred. The electrical signature is the development of zero resistance. The magnetic signature is the onset of the Meissner effect – that is, the material expels magnetic fields. And the thermodynamic signature is that the material’s heat capacity (the amount of heat required to increase its temperature by a given value) displays a distinctive anomaly.
Elusive superconducting-transition signature seen for the first time, Isabelle Dumé, Physics World