Taken together, the words “racing” and “doping” are often considered scandalous—but they are essential and exciting in the world of superconductivity, where electricity can race along with perfect efficiency.
At present, a key step to achieving superconductivity (in addition to chilling the materials to hundreds of degrees below zero) is to substitute a different kind of atom into some positions of the “parent” material’s crystal framework. Until now, scientists thought this tailoring process, called doping, simply added more electrons or other charge carriers, creating an atomic environment better suited to allowing superconductivity.
But a new study reveals that things are stranger than expected. When scientists substituted cobalt atoms into an iron-based material—a necessary doping step in creating superconductivity—they discovered that atomic-scale structural impurities emerged, like sudden speed bumps bursting from a smooth road. The rendering above, a map of the material’s electronic structure, shows the twin peaks of each added cobalt atom. Those little yellow spikes in that sea of blue actually scatter electrons in asymmetric directions, which helps explain some unusual properties in the material. This fundamental knowledge could lead to important advances in energy storage and transmission.
Get more of the story in our press release: http://1.usa.gov/YG73Kw