A technique to activate the superconducting properties of graphene

Graphene molecular structure
Graphene molecular structure

An article published in the journal “Nature Communications” describes a way to activate the superconducting properties of graphene. A team of researchers from St John’s College at Cambridge University found a way to activate those properties that exist as potential but had remained hidden. The most interesting thing is that graphene can become a superconductor at room temperature.

This type of research on graphene brings together some of the biggest development opportunities in electronics and beyond. Graphene has been acclaimed for years as the material at the center of the next electronic revolution for its characteristics. Superconductors that have zero electrical resistance at temperatures much higher than absolute zero would also allow a revolution in energy transport.

In previous experiments, graphene’s superconductivity was activated with techniques that undermined other properties. The consequence was the risk of losing the characteristics that make it a suitable material to replace silicon in electronics. Instead, this time the researchers found a way to pair it with a material that activated its superconducting properties without altering it.

The material used in this research is called praseodymium cerium copper oxide (PCCO). It’s part of a broader class of superconductors called cuprates, the main class of these materials that have those properties active at temperatures far above absolute zero, even 100 K or higher. The properties of PCCO are well known so the researchers were able to distinguish its superconductivity from graphene’s.

There are different types of superconductivity characterized by different types of electron interaction. In PCCO what is called a d-wave superconductivity type occurs. The kind theorized for graphene is different, called p-wave but until now it was never found in any material despite attempts by various researchers to test it. Graphene showed a type of superconductivity different from PCCO and this proves that that property was really activated in graphene and may be of p-wave type.

An verification experiment of p-wave type superconductivity held in 1994 failed for the difficulties to detect its characteristics. Now this makes it difficult to compare those results with the ones of this new research on graphene. In essence, the question is still open and more experiments and tests will need to be conducted to give a final answer. However, the activation of superconductivity in graphene is already a big step forward.

If the p-wave superconductivity type in graphene will be verified, they can use it in particular to create transistor for superconducting circuits and superconducting quantum devices. In recent years graphene has been the focus of many promises of advances in electronics, the possibility of using it as a superconductor is a further promise and another very important one.

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