Nav: Home

Physicists uncover new competing state of matter in superconducting material

January 02, 2019

A team of experimentalists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory and theoreticians at University of Alabama Birmingham discovered a remarkably long-lived new state of matter in an iron pnictide superconductor, which reveals a laser-induced formation of collective behaviors that compete 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."

To get a closer look, Wang and his team used laser pulses of less than a trillionth of a second in much the same way as flash photography, in order to take a series of snapshots. Called terahertz spectroscopy, this technique can be thought of as "laser strobe photography" where many quick images reveal the subtle movement of electron pairings inside the materials using 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.
The research is further discussed in a paper, "Non-equilibrium Pair Breaking in Ba(Fe1-xCox)2As2 Superconductors: Evidence for Formation of Photo-Induced Excitonic State," authored by X. Yang, L. Luo, M. Mootz, A. Patz, S. L. Bud'ko, P. C. Canfield, I. E. Perakis, and J. Wang; and published in Physical Review Letters.

Ames Laboratory scientist and ISU professor Paul Canfield, expert in the design and characterization of iron pnictides, created the single crystal sample used in this investigation. Martin Mootz and Ilias E. Perakis, at University of Alabama Birmingham, developed the theory to explain the observation.

Spectroscopy work was supported by the U.S. Army Research Office. Sample growth and characterization was supported the U.S. Department of Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Science. Theory work at the University of Alabama, Birmingham was also supported by the DOE.

Ames Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science national laboratory operated by Iowa State University. Ames Laboratory creates innovative materials, technologies and energy solutions. We use our expertise, unique capabilities and interdisciplinary collaborations to solve global problems.

DOE's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit

DOE/Ames Laboratory

Related Electrons Articles:

Deceleration of runaway electrons paves the way for fusion power
Fusion power has the potential to provide clean and safe energy that is free from carbon dioxide emissions.
Shining light on low-energy electrons
The classic method for studying how electrons interact with matter is by analyzing their scattering through thin layers of a known substance.
Ultrafast nanophotonics: Turmoil in sluggish electrons' existence
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behavior of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time.
NASA mission uncovers a dance of electrons in space
NASA's MMS mission studies how electrons spiral and dive around the planet in a complex dance dictated by the magnetic and electric fields, and a new study revealed a bizarre new type of motion exhibited by these electrons.
'Hot' electrons don't mind the gap
Rice University scientists discover that 'hot' electrons can create a photovoltage about a thousand times larger than ordinary temperature differences in nanoscale gaps in gold wires.
More Electrons News and Electrons Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#534 Bacteria are Coming for Your OJ
What makes breakfast, breakfast? Well, according to every movie and TV show we've ever seen, a big glass of orange juice is basically required. But our morning grapefruit might be in danger. Why? Citrus greening, a bacteria carried by a bug, has infected 90% of the citrus groves in Florida. It's coming for your OJ. We'll talk with University of Maryland plant virologist Anne Simon about ways to stop the citrus killer, and with science writer and journalist Maryn McKenna about why throwing antibiotics at the problem is probably not the solution. Related links: A Review of the Citrus Greening...