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The University of Texas has created the thinnest superconductor yet, pictured here using a scanning tunneling microscope and colorization. The consists of a 2-atom thick layer of lead deposit as a thin film on silicon. The new superconductor could unlock novel applications.  (Source: University of Texas)
New sheet could be used in MRI machines, particle accelerators, and more

Superconducting is one of the most promising fields of electronics research.  Superconductors feature virtually no resistance and could one day create a digital world without power losses and with many unique applications.  While the race to create room temperature superconductors continues, researchers continue to define designs based on traditional superconducting materials as well.

Researchers at the University of Texas have created super-thin sheets of lead -- merely 2 atoms thick -- that are capable of superconducting.  The material is the thinnest superconductor created to date.

Charge moves across the new material, as in other superconductors, via Cooper pairs, a pair of electrons dancing across the surface.  Typically this movement can occur in three dimensions. The new material is novel in that it confines the movement to two directions, making it easier to control and providing more applications.

Dr. Ken Shih who led the research describes, "To be able to control this material-to shape it into new geometries-and explore what happens is very exciting.  My hope is that this superconductive surface will enable one to build devices and study new properties of superconductivity."

The new sheet was manufactured using advanced deposition techniques, which deposited a thin, uniform film of lead atoms onto a silicon substrate with, according to the researchers, no impurities.  Dr. Shih comments, "We can make this film, and it has perfect crystalline structure-more perfect than most thin films made of other materials."

The new material could be used in MRI machines, particle accelerators, quantum interference devices, and other devices that use superconductors.  It may also help the researchers unlock new insight into superconductor behavior, enabling them to create high temperature superconductors, or superconductors with other unique properties like immunity to magnetism.

The new research is reported in the June 5 issue of the journal Science.





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