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A team led by physicists at the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) have resolved a decade-long puzzle that is set to have huge implications for use of one of the most versatile classes of materials available to us for future technology applications: copper oxide ceramics. The results are published online this week in the journal Nature Physics.
“When making comparisons between experiment and calculation, we, and others, were often finding discrepancies that were then being explained away as systematic errors, imperfections in the samples, or other effects,” said Professor Perring. “But there are only so many times you can ignore these factors before you have to work out why they are there. The answer in the end was as straightforward as making sure to include all the physics”.
Now the team has shown how to correctly compare theoretical models to experimental data, they are hoping that the hunt for the answer to high-temperature superconductivity in the cuprate materials can be reached more quickly.
It is widely believed that the magnetism of the copper atoms, which as this study shows is that of copper-oxygen covalent complexes, plays a vital role in superconductivity.
“Whilst we cannot sort out the differences for everyone, we think they should apply our method to their own situation. This could be a great help in narrowing down the range of possible explanations for high-temperature superconductivity”, said Perring.
Superconducting motors and generators could be made with a weight of about one tenth that of conventional devices for the same output.
In 1995 the Naval Research Laboratory demonstrated a 167 hp motor with high-Tc superconducting coils made from Bi-2223. It was tested at 4.2K and at liquid neon temperature, 28K with 112 hp produced at the higher temperature.
The oxygen input for a 5,000-MW ZEPP far exceeds the output of the largest present oxygen plant, but cryoseparation could provide it. A cryogenic plant located near a ZEPP introduces a bonus, because superconductors need the cold. Companies already sell small motors wound with high-temperature superconducting wire that halve the size and weight of a conventional motor built with copper coils and also halve electrical losses. Colleagues at Tokyo Electric Power calculate that ZEPP plant efficiency could reach 70%, well above the 55% peak of gas turbines today