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Ninety Teslas Peek Under the Superconducting Dome of a High-Temperature Superconductor

Published February 11, 2021


Physics does not yet know why copper-based superconductors (cuprates) conduct electrical current without dissipation at unprecedentedly high temperatures. Ultra high magnetic fields are used here to suppress superconductivity in a cuprate near absolute zero temperature, revealing an underlying transition to an electronic phase that might be the cause of the superconductivity.

What did scientists discover?

A study of the high-temperature superconductor HgBa2CuO4+? revealed signatures of a charge-density-wave phase comprised of spatial modulations of the electron charge. Ninety tesla experiments connected this phase to superconductivity by revealing two zero-temperature phase transitions where superconductivity is most robust.

Why is this important?

Superconductivity describes the ability of some materials to conduct electrical current without any loss of energy at low temperatures. More than thirty years after its discovery, there is no comprehensive theory of high-temperature superconductivity in the cuprates. One leading theoretical paradigm ascribes superconductivity to a zero-temperature phase transition, termed a quantum critical point, that is "hidden" by the strong superconducting phase. These experiments provide support for the idea of quantum criticality underlying superconductivity in the cuprates.

Who did the research?

M. K. Chan1, R. D. McDonald1, B. J. Ramshaw2, J. B. Betts1, A. Shekhter3, E. D. Bauer4, N. Harrison5

1NHMFL, Los Alamos National Laboratory; 2Cornell University; 3NHMFL, Tallahassee; 4MPA-Q, Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Why did they need the MagLab?

These conclusions would not be accessible without the reliable and repeated provision of extremely intense (>90T) pulsed magnetic fields that are required to suppress superconductivity in this cuprate. The unique 1.43GW generator at Los Alamos has delivered electrical pulses that reliably generate the largest non-destructive magnetic fields in the world, having delivered hundreds of pulses between 90T and 100T.

Details for scientists


This research was funded by the following grants: G.S. Boebinger (NSF DMR-1644779); N. Harrison (DOE-BES, Science of 100 T)

For more information, contact Mun Keat Chan.

Last modified on 27 December 2022