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NEWS
New Insight on Superconductors
August 15, 2008

An important advance in understanding how the electrons in some materials become superconducting has been made by researchers from UC Davis, the Los Alamos National Laboratory and UC Irvine. The work, published in the journal Nature, could lead to a deeper understanding of superconductivity and to new materials that are superconducting at higher temperatures.

The team of researchers, led by Yi-feng Yang, a postdoctoral fellow at UC Davis, found a simple way to calculate the temperature at which a new state of matter, the Kondo liquid, emerges in the class of metal alloys called heavy-electron materials. At very low temperatures, these alloys can become superconductors that conduct electricity without resistance.

Heavy electron materials are alloys of metals such as cerium, ytterbium and uranium. They contain both free-moving electrons that make them electrical conductors and a “Kondo” lattice of localized electrons. When the temperature of the material is lowered below a characteristic temperature, the localized electrons lose their magnetism as they become collectively “entangled” through quantum mechanical effects with the conduction electrons, which become heavy and form the Kondo liquid. At much lower temperatures these heavy electrons then become either magnetic or superconducting.

The work was supported by the National Science Foundation and by the ICAM fellowship for Yi-feng Yang. ICAM is a multidisciplinary research program of the University of California that has 57 branches across the U.S. and globally, with its headquarters at UC Davis.

For additional information visit the Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter.


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