Researchers shed light on superconductor development

A team of researchers from Israel’s Tel Aviv University claims to have made a breakthrough in the development of superconductors that operate at higher temperatures than existing superconducting materials.

Able to continuously carry electrical current without suffering any of the losses associated with traditional conductors, superconductors have long been viewed as the ‘holy grail’ of power transmission.

But creating a true superconductor is tricky, and the extremely low operating temperature of existing materials (around 30K) makes deployment extremely challenging.

For almost two decades, scientists have been looking at ways of tweaking superconducting materials to operate a higher temperatures. This is typically achieved using difficult chemical doping techniques — which raise the so-called critical temperature of the material through the addition or removal of particular ions.

However, the Tel Aviv team, led by Prof Yoram Dagan, believes that it has found a simpler way of altering a material’s critical temperature by simply shining light onto a thin, one-molecule-thick coating that can be deposited on a superconducting film. 

During experiments involving three separate molecular coatings, Dagan’s team found that the critical temperature could be raised and lowered simply by switching a light source on and off. Dagan said that his group has effectively developed a ‘knob’ for controlling the temperature of superconducting materials.