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Scientists Discovers a New State of Matter in a Superconduting Material

In the latest findings, scientists of the US Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory in collaboration with theoreticians of the University of Alabama Birmingham have discovered a new state of matter. It has been found in an iron pnictide superconductor which shows a laser-induced formation of collective behaviors that competes with superconductivity.

“Superconductivity is a strange state of matter, in which the pairing of electrons makes them move faster,” said Jigang Wang, Ames Laboratory physicist and Iowa State University professor. “One of the big problems we are trying to solve is how different states in a material compete for those electrons, and how to balance competition and cooperation to increase temperature at which a superconducting state emerges.”

Laser pulses of less than a trillionth of a second were used by researchers at Ames Laboratory. This technique, known as “terahertz spectroscopy” is similar to flash photography, which is used to take a series of snapshots. It can also be imagined as “laser strobe photography” in which many quick images need to be taken to show the movement of electron pairings inside the materials by making the use of long wavelength far-infrared light.

“The ability to see these real-time dynamics and fluctuations is a way to understanding them better so that we can create better superconducting electronics and energy-efficient devices,” said Wang.

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