Superconductors can generate power cords that allow super-fast transmission without losing energy. It enhances imaging technologies like MRIs and hovers more than trains.
Existing superconductors work in extremely cold temperatures. Researchers are looking for the right combination of materials. They believe that the solution lies in how electrons move, not just what they move through.
A new study by a team of scientists from Harvard and Tampere University in Finland reported that a discovery of electron behavior could represent a step towards the superpower world. They described a path that electrons take through 2D, highly structured materials for the first time. Researchers called that path as branched flow.
Branched flow, a phenomenon in wave dynamics, occurs when any wave moves across uneven surfaces that impinge on them in tree-like, chaotic branches.
Prior to this study, scientists had not observed branched flow in such rigid, 2D, solid structures. This new study may help explain how quantum mechanics affects electron behavior. Plus, it could give scientists a way to control electron orbits to create artificial superconductors with ‘superwires’.
Álvar Daza Esteban, a former postdoctoral fellow in physics, a member of the Heller group and the study’s first author, said: “Branched flow has been seen in all kinds of 3D, chaotic systems like gases, tsunamis and even light ricocheting through soap bubbles. But no one expected to see branched flow in 2D periodic systems.”
Eric “Rick” Heller, Abbott and James Lawrence, professor of chemistry and professor of physics and co-author of the paper, said: “People are trying to make super wires that will be beautifully flawless and smooth. And this is not working.”
“In addition, wires must ultimately be 3D; layers of stacked grids would provide multiple channels for electrons to escape into uncontrolled paths and slow themselves down. You can not stop them. “
Controlling branched flow was a challenge for scientists. Some superconductors work when phonons help electrons to pair. Since a group of electron pairs travel together as superwires, matchmaking researchers have used ultra-cold temperatures or extreme pressure to force these pairings. Both are still too risky to operate outside a laboratory.
But if scientists can control the newly discovered branched flow, they do not need phonons; they can even manufacture the electrons through their custom superconductors.
Heller said, “Maybe we can make an artificial superconductor with this.”
Scientists plan to further observe how branching electrons behave and experiment with controlling their flow.
The study was published in PNAS.