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New Superconductor Theory May Revolutionize Electrical Engineering

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the brand-new-day dept.

Technology 92

An anonymous reader writes "High-temperature superconductors exhibit a frustratingly varied catalog of odd behavior, such as electrons that arrange themselves into stripes or refuse to arrange themselves symmetrically around atoms. Now two physicists propose that such behaviors – and superconductivity itself – can all be traced to a single starting point, and they explain why there are so many variations. Most subatomic particles have a tiny magnetic field – a property physicists call 'spin' – and electrical resistance happens when the fields of electrons carrying current interact with those of surrounding atoms. Two electrons can join like two bar magnets, the north pole of one clamping to the south pole of the other, and this 'Cooper pair' is magnetically neutral and can move without resistance. Lee and Davis propose that this 'antiferromagnetic' interaction is the universal cause not only for superconductivity but also for all the observed intertwined ordering. They show how their 'unified' theory can predict the phenomena observed in copper-based, iron-based and so-called 'heavy fermion' materials."

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92 comments

Good Stuff (4, Funny)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 4 months ago | (#45634485)

I will go on the record as saying I am 100% in favor of superconductors. All you anti-supercondites can chomp it!

Re:Good Stuff (4, Funny)

MightyYar (622222) | about 4 months ago | (#45634841)

Well, superconductors killed my dad, so I'm looking for an immediate ban. If you don't like that, you can just say that directly to distraught face of my poor widowed mother. Superconductors also stole all of the insurance money and repeatedly raped my sister. Well, she called it rape, but really there was no resistance.

Re:Good Stuff (1)

leaen (987954) | about 4 months ago | (#45645045)

Well, superconductors killed my dad, so I'm looking for an immediate ban. If you don't like that, you can just say that directly to distraught face of my poor widowed mother. Superconductors also stole all of the insurance money and repeatedly raped my sister. Well, she called it rape, but really there was no resistance.

Sorry, we are superconductors. Resistance is futile.

Re:Good Stuff (4, Funny)

vmxeo (173325) | about 4 months ago | (#45634939)

Whoa there buddy. I'm not against "super"conductors. I just think we should suspend all research, development or mention of them until they've been proven completely and absolutely safe. We wouldn't want them accidentally polluting our good, clean, natural, organic conductors, now would we? Think of the children!

Re:Good Stuff (1)

slick7 (1703596) | about 4 months ago | (#45635423)

I will go on the record as saying I am 100% in favor of superconductors. All you anti-supercondites can chomp it!

As long as it can be metered and not free. FTFY

Re:Good Stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45635825)

I protest and picket! Supercondutors are just a theory, not a fact!!

Re: Good Stuff (4, Funny)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | about 4 months ago | (#45636177)

I suggest we spend less time researching the "theory" of superconductivity and more time researching intelligent conductivity and the controversy of superconductivity.

Re: Good Stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45641247)

I think the scientific community will be pretty resistant to that idea.

Re:Good Stuff (1)

N0Man74 (1620447) | about 4 months ago | (#45641129)

I will go on the record as saying I am 100% in favor of superconductors. All you anti-supercondites can chomp it!

Viva la resistance!

magnets (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45634487)

Mr. Smythe had been giving his second-grade students a short lesson on science. He had explained about magnets and showed how they would pick up nails and other bits of iron. And now it was question time...
"Class," said he, "My name begins with the letter `M' and I pick up things.... What am I?"
A little boy on the front row said, "You're a mother!"

Re:magnets (1, Interesting)

ganjadude (952775) | about 4 months ago | (#45634571)

magnets...how do they work???

Re:magnets (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about 4 months ago | (#45638011)

There are easily a half-dozen or so contenders but when I was a lad likely the two most common lies were "The check is in the mail." and "I'll pull out in time."

Magnets work by selective attraction, not to be confused with beer goggles. Look for the "This sign up." side.

Re:magnets (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45640037)

You jest, but I kind of am curious about this bit.

Two electrons can join like two bar magnets, the north pole of one clamping to the south pole of the other, and this 'Cooper pair' is magnetically neutral and can move without resistance.

My memory is a bit fuzzy, but if you have two bar magnets [N==S], and stick them together like [N==S][N==S], doesn't that just create a longer magnet?

Can I has room temperature superconductors? (1)

queazocotal (915608) | about 4 months ago | (#45634535)

NAO!

Re:Can I has room temperature superconductors? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45634797)

Add in a blind black man and a deaf jew; comical hilarity will automatically ensue.

Re:Can I has room temperature superconductors? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45643735)

Derp to mod, that's a movie reference [imdb.com].

Spin a magnetic field? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45634581)

Spin is an angular momentum, yes it does generates a magnetic momentum that gives origin to a field. But calling spin a field is like calling earth's angular momentum gravity.

Re:Spin a magnetic field? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45634715)

And calling an electron's spin angular momentum is like calling earth's angular momentum temperature.

Re:Spin a magnetic field? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45637303)

The electron's spin is angular momentum. It isn't orbital angular momentum, but nonetheless, has a quanta of angular momentum that can do things like add or subtract from orbital angular momentum.

Re:Spin a magnetic field? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45638497)

2 electrons can have the same 'spin' (which is not actually spin but a quantum state) but be in 2 different states due to having different angular momentum (which also is NOT spin). Look up hydrogen. The /. summary wording is piss poor.

Re:Spin a magnetic field? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45639073)

The electrons have the same "spin" in the sense that the absolute value of their spin is the same (namely sqrt(3)/2 hbar; don't let the term "spin-1/2 particle fool you; that's about the corresponding quantum number), but the direction of their spin isn't. More exactly, the "up" spin (if defined, as conventionally done, in z-direction) has as z-component of the spin +hbar/2, while the "down" spin has a z-component of -hbar/2.

Re:Spin a magnetic field? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45639671)

You and whoever has been modding you up should actually go look up quantum mechanics and the hydrogen atom, Maybe this more general article on angular momentum [wikipedia.org] will be helpful. And then maybe look up what those four quantum numbers are used to describe the state of an electron in a hydrogen like atom:

n - principle quantum number - comes from the radial part of the solution of the Schroedinger equation, determining which shell the electron is in.
l - orbital quantum number - so named because it is the magnitude of the orbital angular momentum
m - magnetic quantum number - which is quantization of the projection of orbital angular momentum along an axis determined by a magnetic field
s - spin quantum number - indicating the direction the quanta of intrinsic spin of the election is pointed in, with or against the magnetic field.

None of these are the total angular momentum, which would be the vector sum of the spin and orbital angular momentum: J = L + S, and includes a total angular momentum quantum number j=l+s.

Re:Spin a magnetic field? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45641733)

And calling an electron's spin angular momentum is like calling earth's angular momentum temperature.

And calling the Earth's temperature "climate" is like calling particle science physics.

Re:Spin a magnetic field? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45635809)

When you get to the subatomic level, the words have different meanings. The fields create the effects, and spin, colour etc are fundamental properties, not a description of behaviour.

Re:Spin a magnetic field? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45639077)

Damn those scientists! They didn't have appropriate words to describe the properties of subatomic particles, so instead of making up new words they ransacked existing everyday use words and pulled new meanings for them out of their asses. And then they go and bitch about laymen giving an "incorrect" use to words like THEORY!

Re:Spin a magnetic field? (1)

blue trane (110704) | about 4 months ago | (#45636979)

If an electron spins like the earth spins, it's revolving at 100 times the speed of light (see http://www7b.biglobe.ne.jp/~kcy05t/spin.html [biglobe.ne.jp]).

Re:Spin a magnetic field? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45637335)

I don't know why it is so hard to think that quanta of angular momentum can be carried by particles that don't actually rotate. considering the electron is thought to be a point particle in most theories, it doesn't make any sense to talk about what speed it would have to actually be rotating as if it were some rigid rotor.. Might as well complain charge doesn't exist because the electron has infinite charge density too. I stopped reading when he wondered about where the g factor comes from, when it is actually very accurate predicted by QED.

Re:Spin a magnetic field? (1)

blue trane (110704) | about 4 months ago | (#45637473)

I think the point is that the term "spin" is not, at the quantum level, what we think of when we say a top spins, for example.

Re:Spin a magnetic field? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45642271)

The link's point definitely is not, "Spin doesn't have a rotating part but otherwise acts just like angular momentum in any other system," and seems instead to be pushing that spin doesn't exist at all...

Re:Spin a magnetic field? (1)

blue trane (110704) | about 4 months ago | (#45646805)

I think it means that spin exists as something we can't really envision (yet), so we just treat it as a mathematical abstraction without a corresponding physical referent we've experienced.

that picture takes me back (4, Insightful)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about 4 months ago | (#45634601)

to one of the BASIC test programs for my Commodore 64 that would fill the screen with random / and \ characters, resulting in a similar pattern. If only I'd made the connection to intertwined ordered phases earlier!

Re:that picture takes me back (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45635015)

Should've reversed polarity...

Re:that picture takes me back (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45635183)

I have prior art on my VIC-20

Re: that picture takes me back (3, Interesting)

jomama717 (779243) | about 4 months ago | (#45636757)

If you have a mac (or any Unicode able terminal) try out my sig. Saw the c64 code in someone else's sig, linked to a book about the phenomenon (maybe too strong a word)

Re: that picture takes me back (1)

magic maverick (2615475) | about 4 months ago | (#45637885)


You monster! That code deleted everything on my windoze partition, scratched my records, and kicked my dog!

the question is (1)

strack (1051390) | about 4 months ago | (#45634609)

Does it predict any room temperature superconductors?

Re:the question is (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45634779)

If you keep your room at 2 Kelvin, sure.

Re:the question is (-1)

RandomFactor (22447) | about 4 months ago | (#45635041)

Up to 53c last report here: http://www.superconductors.org/News.htm [superconductors.org]

Re:the question is (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45635609)

Oh, boy! Superconductivity at 53 C, according to a website run by some guy whose only verified achievement is landing the "superconductors.org" domain. Stop the presses!

For the sarcasm-impaired: If someone had, in fact, produced a material that verifiably and reproducibly exhibits superconductivity at such temperatures, it probably would be getting some coverage outside a single vanity domain.

Re:the question is (4, Informative)

InvalidError (771317) | about 4 months ago | (#45636485)

You do not need 2K for supraconduction: there is at least one class of supraconductor ceramics that works at temperatures as high as 135K and another (YBCO) that works at 92K which makes them relatively simple to cool by simply using liquid nitrogen. Most of the others operate in the 25-55K range.

Re:the question is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45638527)

How can we trust what you're saying when you can't even spell the subject?? Jesus-tapdancing-Christ!!

Does this theory predict room temp superconductors (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 4 months ago | (#45634619)

Does this theory predict that really high temperature (room temperature or higher) superconductors are possible, or that they are not? If it does, can it indicate anything about what sort of materials we should be trying to use to fabricate it?

Re: Does this theory predict room temp superconduc (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about 4 months ago | (#45634713)

Maybe it could explain statene [scientificamerican.com]

Re: Does this theory predict room temp superconduc (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45634855)

Per the article, statene isn't a superconductor.

"Although stanene and superconductors can both act like perfect conductors of electricity, Zhang emphasizes that stanene is not a superconductor. While the edges of stanene act as a highway for electrons, those electrons still encounter 'contact resistance' when they move between the stanene and normal conductors. In a superconductor, in contrast, electrons travel in pairs, a phenomenon that can eliminate contact resistance. In other words, a normal conductor essentially acts like a superconductor when it is placed in contact with a superconductor."

Re:Does this theory predict room temp superconduct (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45636607)

Nor does it predict Helium.

Copper and Iron are basically similar structure when it comes to electrons except one is conductive and magnetic and the other is a conductor and not magnetic.

Didn't even read it (0)

ArchieBunker (132337) | about 4 months ago | (#45634633)

Another fluff piece about "breakthroughs" that turn out to be nothing and forgotten. We should all be using 3d optical storage now instead of spinning magnetic media if any of these were true. About the only big deal has been graphene and I still don't see it being used for anything other than "hey look what it can do!".

Re:Didn't even read it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45634771)

I have 5 rack-mounted servers in two separate co-located centers, a desktop, two laptops, a smart phone, and some other odds-and-ends, and not a single one has spinning magnetic media. What year are you from? How's that MP3 collection going?

Re:Didn't even read it (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45637523)

How's that MP3 collection going?

I considered switching to it but since it's a fairly new format I'm concerned about the longevity of it.

I'll stick to keeping my collection in RealAudio for now.

Re:Didn't even read it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45638951)

Yeah how much is that 3TB SSD costing you?

You can't predict what's already observed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45634785)

"They show how their 'unified' theory can predict the phenomena observed in copper-based, iron-based and so-called 'heavy fermion' materials."

That's not a prediction - we already have observed those phenomena. It would be a good thing if their theory can EXPLAIN a number of currently unexplained phenomena, especially if it does so more simply than existing theories. But a PREDICTION would imply a theory can tell us what to expect from as-yet unobserved interactions.

Predictive power is highly important for a theory to be useful.

Re:You can't predict what's already observed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45641967)

I think prediction in this sense means that it was not fed into the theory as one of the parameters. It may have made more testable predictions, but those likely haven't been tested yet nor all determined.

Toscanini (3, Funny)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about 4 months ago | (#45634815)

Now there was a superconductor. Odd behaviour and all.

Re: Toscanini (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45637451)

Maybe it's an old joke but first time I've heard it. Bravo, sir. Bravo.

Spindizzy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45634879)

from Cities in Flight
www.technovelgy.com/ct/content.asp?Bnum=136
Spindizzy by James Blish: A device that made use of a relationship between electron spin, electromagnetism and gravity allowed any object to leave the Earth's ...

what is the theory? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45634991)

I know it's not normal to read tfa, but I did, and I couldn't find the new theory.

my take... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45635001)

FWIW, this appears to be mostly first order theory that is able to exhibit the known interactions that are presumed to destabilize known forms of high-temp superconductivity. It isn't a revolutionary idea, many physicists presume that the interaction of the topology of the Fermi-surface are keys to understanding why some high-temp superconductors work and some do not, but I'm guessing these folks are one the first to show a way to generate most of the known interactions in most types of known high-temp superconductors (apparently other people have done this for copper-oxide HTSC) and hence why this is considered a "unified" theory.

The insight they appear to claim is there aren't certain configurations of Fermi-surfaces that generate interactions that destabilize HTSCs, but the key is in the energy regime of electron-electron interaction of the anti-ferromagnetic interaction itself. It's kind of like saying in the domain of the formation of these superconductivity inhibitors, it's too simplifying to consider energy regime of particle-field interaction (e.g., electron-pair vs Fermi-surface) but you must consider the energy regime of particle-particle interaction.

Like all things new, it may be a start, but on the other hand, it is still an untested theory (it's a theory crafted to exhibit known results). If it turns out to be predictive, maybe it might lead to something interesting.

"Ideally we would like to be able to tell the materials scientist to put elements X, Y and Z together," Lee said. "Unfortunately we can't do that yet."

Betteridge's law for "may" statements (2)

jfengel (409917) | about 4 months ago | (#45635157)

Seems to me that there ought to be a corollary to Betteridge's law of headlines (A headline with a question mark can be answered by "no") for headlines with the word "may".

"Scientific advance X may achieve Y" can be read as "Will scientific advance X achieve Y?". To which the answer is "no", followed by "That's how researchers attempt to get more funding for X, a small advance of interest to those in the field but not exactly flying cars, by pretending it might lead to Y, which it almost certainly won't."

Re:Betteridge's law for "may" statements (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 4 months ago | (#45638207)

Way too much stock is given Betteridge's "law". Wikipedia says he broke his own law. Not much of a law, is it?

Re:Betteridge's law for "may" statements (1)

Merk42 (1906718) | about 4 months ago | (#45641527)

You should write an article on it with the headline "Is Betteridge's law always true?"

Re:Betteridge's law for "may" statements (1)

jfengel (409917) | about 4 months ago | (#45642359)

Calling it a "law" is an exaggeration for comic effect. But it gets that name because it's common enough to be a recognized trope, indeed overused: you can make a headline more exciting by hinting that a development is more important or that a trend is more pervasive than it actually is. Stories that are important in and of themselves generally have statements rather than questions in the headline.

Invoking Betteridge's Law may well itself be an over-used trope, but if it is it's only because there's so very, very much call for it. News aggregators like Slashdot serve as concentrators, seeking out the most exciting stories. Ideally, the editors would serve as filters as well, recognizing exaggerated headlines and either ignoring them or putting them back into proper context. Instead, it's usually left to a poster to do that, generally after a lot of excited and/or outraged posting based on the headline. (Because the posters who just read the headline will always get there before people who bothered to RTFA.)

a better summary (4, Informative)

Goldsmith (561202) | about 4 months ago | (#45635989)

(Why was a poorly written press release linked instead of the actual paper?)

This paper shows how you can start with an extremely simple theory of electron interaction and build up to some very complicated, realistic superconducting behaviors. When varying the material properties of high temperature superconductors, you always see an antiferromagnetic material type near the superconducting material composition. For many years condensed matter physicists have suspected that this was more than a coincidence and that high temperature superconductors work because of finely tuned antiferromagnetic interactions between electrons. Although this paper simplifies electron interactions considerably (come on, we're physicists, simplification is what we do), it does fill in some of the larger holes in that theory and is an important step toward understanding the physics behind the phenomenological high temperature superconductivity models.

Its kinda obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45637749)

Yet by trial and error, close to optimal solutions have been found.
Add this theory plus supercomputers, may spit out something better.
Adding magnets or some current to what was previously tried, may even surprise.Too bad China has the monopoly on rare earths.

Re:Its kinda obvious (4, Informative)

dkf (304284) | about 4 months ago | (#45637803)

Too bad China has the monopoly on rare earths.

They're not actually rare. China has a monopoly mainly by being a very cheap producer of something that requires a lot of messy processing to make; everyone else is happy to let them have a monopoly because it's expensive to do otherwise, not because they actually control all possible sources.

Re:a better summary (1)

Twinbee (767046) | about 4 months ago | (#45641575)

There was a recent (approx 6-20 month old?) breakthrough (reported on Slashdot) in understanding superconductor behaviour. Do you think this new discovery has sourced information, ideas or data from that old breakthrough?

If you're not sure what I'm referring to, I'll try and find the story.

Theory/Product May/Will Revolutionize ur life!! (2)

Trax3001BBS (2368736) | about 4 months ago | (#45637735)

  That is such a misused statement(s), there is very little chance you ever
  hear of this again, not just this article but anything that's claiming to
  be anything other than an interesting article.

  Remember the glass bottles with a coating inside that made the very last
  drop of ketchup/mayonnaise flow, ending waste? Never heard of it again.

  Mouth wash that used once would completely eliminate tooth decay? Yep, dead story.

  I'm not even taking the time to look for links you all know of some
  "make this a better world" solution that never sees the day of light, let
  alone another word.

Re:Theory/Product May/Will Revolutionize ur life!! (1)

Twinbee (767046) | about 4 months ago | (#45641599)

A small proportion of such stories do see the light though. Think back to the 'unusual' light from that OLED tech first produced as one example.

Heisenberg Principle (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45639829)

"they can scan a surface in steps smaller than the width of an atom, while measuring the energies of electrons under their probes"

Wait! Isn't that a violation of the Heisenberg (Uncertainty) Principle?!? You can WHERE it is AND how much ENERGY it has ?!?

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncertainty_principle

Re:Heisenberg Principle (1)

hAckz0r (989977) | about 4 months ago | (#45640745)

Keep in mind this is not really a freely moving particle being measured, and is actually a bound electron(s) being measured multiple times as it orbits the same atom. And yes, the act of measuring the electron can make it jump to its neighbouring atom's nucleolus, but that would leave a positive void which some other electron would quickly find because of zero resistance of the substrate.

Best Super Conductor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45643579)

Opinions vary, but I've always felt it was Herbert von Karajan, sadly now deceased.

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