High-temperature superconducting materials science and engineering

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Scientists have a good reason for hunting for high- T c superconductors among materials with an abundance of hydrogens.

In , Cornell University physicist Neil Ashcroft predicted atomic metallic hydrogen would be a superconductor at or above room temperature Phys. In a metal like mercury, electrons will flow through a lattice of positively charged metal atoms. Electrons crash into the atoms, transferring energy that is lost as heat. Each electron distorts the lattice slightly as it moves, creating what are called phonons. These regions of positive charge attract other electrons, creating pairs of electrons that—in a way—drag each other through the metal, eliminating resistance.

The problem is no one has definitively made a solid metal of atomic hydrogen. Scientists predict that very high pressure is needed to force hydrogen atoms to move out of diatomic molecules and into a lattice of protons and mobile electrons. Isaac F. Eremets and others have dismissed these results, arguing that the measurements did not prove the team had made the elusive substance. Not long after announcing their discovery, Silvera and Dias revealed their original sample had disappeared, and they would need to repeat the experiments. In , he argued that alloys with high hydrogen content would behave similarly to metallic hydrogen Phys.

That prediction set off an ongoing race to predict, synthesize, and test hydride materials.

1. Introduction

Scientists theorize that silicon, lithium, and other hydrides could be high- T c superconductors, but the list of synthesized hydride superconductors is still short. The Eremets group used a diamond anvil to produce the high pressures needed. The process is exactly what it sounds like: Two diamonds attached to a press squeeze a cell bounded by a metal gasket. The researchers piped hydrogen sulfide gas into the precooled cell and monitored the resistance in the sample as they increased the pressure.

The first occurred at GPa and 60 K. The researchers saw a second at GPa and K but later revised the temperature up to K. The group speculated that it had found two new high- T c superconductors: H 2 S and, after a pressure-induced chemical change, H 3 S. Thomas Timusk , a physicist at McMaster University who has worked with Eremets to confirm sulfur hydride superconductivity, says the discovery was really twofold. But the hunt for other members of that family has been slow going.

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Hoffmann recalls the rush of reproduction experiments after cuprate superconductors were discovered in Scientists identified dozens of other cuprates in the following years. Still, researchers have made progress. Hemley, Hoffmann, Ashcroft, and colleagues predicted in several lanthanum and yttrium hydride superconductors that could have critical temperatures near or even above room temperature Proc. Hemley and colleagues reported experimental confirmation of one of those, LaH 10 , in their August arXiv paper and ACS meeting presentation.

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Hemley explains that the work started with a computational search for stable rare-earth metal hydrides with about 10 or more hydrogens per metal atom. His group then synthesized LaH 10 by heating lanthanum metal with a laser in the presence of ammonia borane, which served as a source of hydrogen. All this was done inside a diamond anvil cell like the one Eremets used. Hemley has not yet done the more rigorous magnetic susceptibility experiments to confirm superconductivity in LaH 10 , but resistance measurements of several samples show it is a superconductor at or K and GPa.

In these hydrides, scientists use sulfur, lanthanum, and other elements to destabilize the H 2 bond and push the hydrogen atoms into a metallic state. Hemley likens this effect to how increasing the pressure on a material enables superconductivity—it controls the distance between atoms and, in turn, the properties of the bulk material. Eremets published his own lanthanum hydride results at nearly the same time as Hemley.

In fact, Hemley also cautions that he may have made other materials in addition to or instead of LaH Even if the progress on hydrides has been slow, Timusk and others see these achievements as the success of a new approach for finding high- T c superconductors. Eva Zurek , a computational chemist at the University at Buffalo, explains that the high pressures needed to make these hydride superconductors make it difficult for experimentalists to find new high- T c superconductors on their own.

Zurek wonders if some of the materials may be like diamonds. The carbon materials are metastable: They require high pressures to form but they stay stable at low pressures. Like Zurek, Hemley sees close collaboration between experimentalists and theorists driving discovery of stable, high- T c superconductors. The power is now in your nitrile gloved hands Sign up for a free account to increase your articles. Or go unlimited with ACS membership. Chemistry matters.

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A Brief Review of Recent Superconductivity Research at NIST

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Not you? Sign in with a different account. The objective of this part of the program is to provide a better understanding of physical phenomena behind the properties and behavior of advanced materials, but the program's administrators also value the development of experimental techniques and methodologies. Like the Experimental Condensed Matter Physics group, this unit is also interested in new experimental tools and instrumentation.

The Basic Energy Sciences program and other extramural research functions at DOE use an annual blanket solicitation that spells out the rules and procedures for new research proposals, while a separate solicitation is used for renewals. In its guidelines for researchers new to the Basic Energy Sciences program, DOE encourages prospects to first contact the relevant manager associated with the relevant core research areas help get a better understanding of research needs and funding opportunities. The program's organization chart and staff directory on DOE's Web site can help locate these people.

The National Science Foundation is another source of basic research funding in high-temperature superconductivity, mainly through its Division of Materials Research , which is part of the Directorate for Mathematics and Physical Sciences. This division includes a Condensed Matter Physics program for experimental and theoretical research in materials science that includes superconductivity as an area of interest.

Fuller-Mora and Hess note that research on HTS can also address fundamental issues related to the understanding and consequences of strong electron correlations. All NSF awards include a requirement for researchers to include activities that broaden the impact of the proposed research beyond the initial findings. NSF has a program encouraging international collaborations in materials and condensed matter research, the Materials World Network , which includes research in HTS. This program funds collaborations between American institutions and counterpart research organizations in some 42 countries.

The deadline for funding closes on 20 November , however.


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This program has made awards since , which suggests it will continue beyond this year. The MRSEC program includes the Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials, which encourage collaborations in materials science research with minority-serving institutions.

The CAREER program cuts across all disciplines and is reserved for assistant professors that have not yet received tenure. The next deadline for proposals is July The procurement has three parts:. Power Delivery Cables , to integrate HTS wires and cables into existing electrical distribution systems and demonstrate improvements in reliability and performance. Fault Current Limiters , to develop and demonstrate fault-current limiters using HTS to control fault-current levels on utility distribution and transmission networks. Other High Temperature Superconductivity Applications , for other HTS applications related to electric power production or distribution.

The deadline for proposals in all three parts is 10 January Proposals need to be submitted through Grants.