Harvard Reveals Breakthrough in High-Temperature Superconductor Technology

by Klaus Müller
High-Temperature Superconductors

Led by Philip Kim, a team of Harvard scientists has made a pioneering leap in superconductor technology by developing a high-temperature superconducting diode using cuprates, a significant advancement for quantum computing. This innovation marks a vital milestone in the exploration and control of exotic materials and quantum states. Source: SciTechPost.com

Methodology for production may aid in the discovery of new materials.
Philip Kim’s Harvard team leads innovation in high-temperature superconductors with cuprate use.
Created the first-ever superconducting diode, pushing forward the quantum computing field.
Achieved control of quantum states and directional supercurrent in BSCCO.

Superconductors, which allow a flawless, no-loss flow of electrons, have long fascinated physicists. However, these materials typically exhibit their quantum-mechanical properties only at extremely low temperatures – just above absolute zero – limiting their practical use.

Harvard’s Professor of Physics and Applied Physics, Philip Kim, and his team have showcased a novel approach to fabricating and manipulating cuprates, a class of higher-temperature superconductors. This breakthrough paves the way for engineering new forms of superconductivity in previously unattainable materials.

Utilizing a special low-temperature device fabrication technique, Kim’s group has introduced in the journal Science a potential candidate for the first high-temperature, superconducting diode. This device, made from thin cuprate crystals, could be a significant component in emerging fields like quantum computing, which depends on brief mechanical phenomena that are challenging to maintain.

Illustration of the layered, twisted cuprate superconductor with background data. Credit: Lucy Yip, Yoshi Saito, Alex Cui, Frank Zhao

Kim emphasizes the feasibility of high-temperature superconducting diodes without the need for magnetic fields, opening new avenues for studying exotic materials.

Cuprates, copper oxides, caused a stir in the physics community decades ago by becoming superconducting at temperatures previously deemed impossible. The highest recorded temperature for a cuprate superconductor is -225 Fahrenheit. However, working with these materials without impairing their superconducting states is highly complex due to their intricate electronic and structural properties.

Led by S. Y. Frank Zhao, a former student at the Griffin Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and currently a postdoctoral researcher at MIT, the team employed an air-free, cryogenic crystal manipulation technique in ultrapure argon. They skillfully created a pristine interface between two ultra-thin layers of the cuprate bismuth strontium calcium copper oxide (BSCCO, or “bisco”). BSCCO is a “high-temperature” superconductor, becoming superconducting at around -288 Fahrenheit, a temperature that is relatively high for superconductors.

Zhao first divided BSCCO into two layers, each a thousandth of a human hair’s width. Then, at -130 degrees, he stacked them at a 45-degree angle, similar to a misaligned ice cream sandwich, while preserving the superconductivity at the delicate interface.

The team found that the maximum supercurrent passing through the interface without resistance varies based on the direction of the current. Importantly, they also showed electronic control over the quantum state at the interface by reversing this polarity. This capability essentially enabled them to create a switchable, high-temperature superconducting diode, laying the groundwork for future integration into computing technologies, like quantum bits.

Zhao describes this as an initial step in exploring topological phases and quantum states resilient against imperfections.

Reference: “Time-reversal symmetry breaking superconductivity between twisted cuprate superconductors” by S. Y. Frank Zhao et al., 7 December 2023, Science.
DOI: 10.1126/science.abl8371

Collaborating with Marcel Franz from the University of British Columbia and Jed Pixley from Rutgers University, whose teams previously conducted theoretical calculations predicting the cuprate superconductor’s behavior, the Harvard team reconciled experimental observations with new theoretical developments by Pavel A. Volkov from the University of Connecticut.

The research received support from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Energy.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about High-Temperature Superconductors

What is the recent advancement in superconductor technology by Harvard researchers?

Harvard researchers, led by Philip Kim, have developed a high-temperature superconducting diode using cuprates. This innovation is a significant step forward in quantum computing and the study of exotic materials and quantum states.

How does the new superconducting diode contribute to quantum computing?

The superconducting diode created by Harvard’s team represents a crucial development in quantum computing. It allows for better manipulation and understanding of quantum states, potentially facilitating advancements in the field.

What are cuprates and why are they important in this research?

Cuprates are a class of copper oxide materials that become superconducting at relatively high temperatures. They are crucial in this research for creating the high-temperature superconducting diode, a significant step in understanding and manipulating superconductivity.

Who led the experiments for this superconducting diode and what was the method used?

The experiments for this superconducting diode were led by S. Y. Frank Zhao, a former student at Harvard and now a postdoctoral researcher at MIT. The method involved air-free, cryogenic crystal manipulation in ultrapure argon to engineer a clean interface between layers of cuprate bismuth strontium calcium copper oxide (BSCCO).

What makes BSCCO significant in the context of superconductors?

Bismuth strontium calcium copper oxide (BSCCO) is significant as it is considered a high-temperature superconductor, starting to superconduct at about -288 Fahrenheit. This is relatively high compared to other superconductors and important for practical applications.

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Sarah K December 19, 2023 - 4:02 pm

wow, superconductors at high temperatures? that’s crazy. I remember studying how they only worked at super low temps. times are changing fast!

Raj Patel December 19, 2023 - 5:29 pm

I’ve heard of cuprates but never knew they were this important in superconductivity. Great article but could use a bit more detail on the tech side, you know?

Dave R December 19, 2023 - 7:29 pm

Philip Kim’s team is doing some groundbreaking stuff! But I think the article needs to clarify more on how this impacts the average joe. Superconductors sound complex.

Emma Smith December 20, 2023 - 1:50 am

Is this really feasible? I mean, superconducting at -288F is still cold, right? How do they plan to use this in practical applications, anyone got ideas?

Mike Johnson December 20, 2023 - 7:40 am

amazing work by Harvard! quantum computing is def the future, this could change everything…


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