A new study by KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Stanford University revises of our understanding of quantum vortices in superconductors. Pictured an artist’s depiction of quantum vortices. Credit: Greg Stewart, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
Topics: Modern Physics, Quantum Mechanics, Research, Superconductors
Within superconductors, little tornadoes of electrons, known as quantum vortices, can occur, which have important implications in superconducting applications such as quantum sensors. Now a new kind of superconducting vortex has been found, an international team of researchers reports.
Egor Babaev, professor at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, says the study revises the prevailing understanding of how electronic flow can occur in superconductors, based on work about quantum vortices that was recognized in the 2003 Nobel Prize award. The researchers at KTH, together with researchers from Stanford University, TD Lee Institute in Shanghai, and AIST in Tsukuba, discovered that the magnetic flux produced by vortices in a superconductor can be divided up into a wider range of values than thought.
That represents a new insight into the fundamentals of superconductivity and also potentially can be applied in superconducting electronics.
A vortex of magnetic flux happens when an external magnetic field is applied to a superconductor. The magnetic field penetrates the superconductor in the form of quantized magnetic flux tubes, which form vortices. Babaev says that originally research held that quantum vortices pass through superconductors each carrying one quantum of magnetic flux. But arbitrary fractions of quantum flux were not a possibility entertained in earlier theories of superconductivity.
Using the Superconducting Quantum Interference Device (SQUID) at Stanford University Babaev's co-authors, research scientist Yusuke Iguchi and Professor Kathryn A. Moler, showed at a microscopic level that quantum vortices can exist in a single electronic band. The team was able to create and move around these fractional quantum vortices, Moler says.
"Professor Babaev has been telling me for years that we could see something like this, but I didn't believe it until Dr. Iguchi actually saw it and conducted a number of detailed checks," she says.
Tiny quantum electronic vortexes can circulate in superconductors in ways not seen before, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Phys.org.