Researchers in the US have found a way to double the life of so-called superconductors by tapping into the electrons that underpin the chemical compound strontium titanate.
The scientists, from the US Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University, have spent the last few months exploring the electrons of superconducting materials.
Up until now, most research projects looking at superconductors have focused on metals. However, the academics explained that their focus has shifted to oxide materials.
Strontium titanate is of particular interest to scientists because it is one of the only semiconductor materials capable of producing superconducting elements.
By utilising the material's electrons, the scientists said it is possible to prove a theory called "high temperature" superconductivity. They claim that the latter could be used in future technologies.
The researchers have published their findings in a journal article for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Adrian Swartz, a post-doctoral researcher at Stanford University, led the experiment. He said strontium titanate could transform existing superconductors.
"If conventional metal superconductors are at one end of a spectrum, strontium titanate is all the way down at the other end. It has the lowest density of available electrons of any superconductor we know about," he said.
"It's one of a large number of materials we call 'unconventional' superconductors because they can't be explained by current theories.
"By studying its extreme behaviour, we hope to gain insight into the ingredients that lead to superconductivity in these unconventional materials, including the ones that operate at higher temperatures."
The oxide benefits from the Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer theory of superconductivity, which essentially describes a type of superconductivity that consists of natural vibrations. These travel through a material's atomic latticework.
Due to the rapid intensity of these vibrations, carrier electrons are combined into one superfluid to create an electric current.
Harold Hwang, who is a professor at SLAC and Stanford, added: "The desire to do this experiment has been there for decades, but it's been a technical challenge.
"This is, as far as I know, the first complete set of data coming out of a tunneling experiment on this material."
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