Scientists at the University of Cambridge have published details of a key breakthrough in unravelling the mystery of room temperature superconductivity.
A paper in today's edition of Nature claims that materials which could potentially transport electricity with zero loss (resistance) at room temperature hold "vast potential".
Some of the possible applications include supercomputers, magnetically levitated trains, efficient magnetic resonance imaging, and lossless power generators, transformers and transmission lines.
Creating such materials has long eluded scientists, but the materials that are known to superconduct at the highest temperatures are ceramic insulators that behave as magnets before 'doping'.
'Doping' is a method of introducing impurities to a semiconductor to modify its electrical properties.
After doping charge carriers (holes or electrons) into these parent magnetic insulators, they mysteriously begin to superconduct.
The Cambridge researchers have discovered where the charge 'hole' carriers that play a significant role in the superconductivity originate within the electronic structure of copper-oxide superconductors.
Dr Suchitra E Sebastian, lead author of the study, said: "A major advance has been our use of high magnetic fields which punch holes through the superconducting shroud.
"We have successfully unearthed for the first time in a high temperature superconductor the location in the electronic structure where 'pockets' of doped hole carriers aggregate.
"Our experiments have thus made an important advance toward understanding how superconducting pairs form out of these hole pockets."
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