Professor Andrea Cavalleri   (Source: Oxford University )
Now researchers are looking to achieve superconductivity at greater temperatures

Oxford University researchers have managed to turn a non-superconducting material into a superconductor through the use of light. 

Professor Andrea Cavalleri, study leader from the Department of Physics at Oxford University and the Department for Structural Dynamics at the Max Planck Institute in Hamburg, Germany, along with a team of researchers, have used laser light to transform non-superconducting insulator into a superconductor.

To do this, the researchers used a material that is similar to high-temperature copper oxide superconductors, except the electrons and atoms' arrangement serves to "frustrate" electric current. Despite being a non-superconducting material, it has the potential to be a great electrical conductor without any energy loss because high-temperature superconductors in this class of materials contain layers of copper oxide, which superconduct up to a temperature of -170 degrees Celsius. It is believed that superconductors have atoms and electrons situated in such a way that electrons are able to move through the material with no problems. 

Researchers decided to rearrange the line-up of atoms in an effort to give the non-super-conducting material superconductor-like properties. They did this by using a strong infrared laser pulse on the material, disrupting the positions of the atoms. At a temperature of 20 degrees above absolute zero, the material became a superconductor for a fraction of a second. Then it returned back to its natural state. 

"We have shown that the non-superconducting state and the superconducting one are not that different in these materials, in that it takes only a millionth of a millionth of a second to make electrons synch up and superconduct," said Cavalleri. "This must mean that they were essentially already synched in the non-superconductor, but something was preventing them from siding around with zero resistance. The precisely tuned laser light removes the frustration, unlocking the superconductivity." 

This research offers a deeper understanding of how superconductivity works in this particular class of materials, and could lead to new research in achieving superconductivity at higher temperatures. 

This study was published in Science.

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