Creating New States of Matter – Researchers Invent Two New Types of Superconductivity

Superconductor Superconduction Abstract Physics

Researchers have successfully created new types of superconductors by arranging atoms one at a time, potentially leading to the development of innovative materials and quantum computing advancements. The study indicates a promising approach to overcoming the limitations of naturally occurring materials, paving the way for novel states of matter in future electronics and computing technologies.

Electronics of the future hinge on the discovery of unique materials. Sometimes, however, the naturally occurring topology of atoms makes it difficult for new physical effects to be created. To address this, scientists from the University of Zurich have now successfully designed superconductors one atom at a time, creating new states of matter.

The common element in all these approaches is that they are based on novel physical effects, some of which have so far only been predicted in theory. Researchers go to great lengths and use state-of-the-art equipment in their quest for new quantum materials that will enable them to create such effects. But what if there are no suitable materials that occur naturally?

Novel approach to superconductivity

They are focusing on novel types of superconductors, which are particularly interesting because they offer zero electrical resistance at low temperatures. Sometimes referred to as “ideal diamagnets”, superconductors are used in many quantum computers due to their extraordinary interactions with magnetic fields. Theoretical physicists have spent years researching and predicting various superconducting states. “However, only a small number have so far been conclusively demonstrated in materials,” says Professor Neupert.

Two new types of superconductivity

In their exciting collaboration, the UZH researchers predicted in theory how the atoms should be arranged to create a new superconductive phase, and the team in Germany then conducted experiments to implement the relevant topology. Using a scanning tunneling microscope, they moved and deposited the atoms in the right place with atomic precision.

The same method was also used to measure the system’s magnetic and superconductive properties. By depositing chromium atoms on the surface of superconducting niobium, the researchers were able to create two new types of superconductivity. Similar methods had previously been used to manipulate metal atoms and molecules, but until now it has never been possible to make two-dimensional superconductors with this approach.

The results not only confirm the physicists’ theoretical predictions, but also give them reason to speculate about what other new states of matter might be created in this way, and how they could be used in the quantum computers of the future.

Reference: “Two-dimensional Shiba lattices as a possible platform for crystalline topological superconductivity” by Martina O. Soldini, Felix Küster, Glenn Wagner, Souvik Das, Amal Aldarawsheh, Ronny Thomale, Samir Lounis, Stuart S. P. Parkin, Paolo Sessi and Titus Neupert, 10 July 2023, Nature Physics.
DOI: 10.1038/s41567-023-02104-5