Controlling the properties of new superconducting materials

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: OxICFM CDT

Abstract

Global demand for low cost, efficient and sustainable functional materials is ever increasing due to pressing needs to address technological challenges of the 21st century, such as energy transfer and data processing. Superconducting materials have a wide range of applications, all of which could transform our daily lives, ranging from quantum computing to novel electric motors. Superconductivity is a phenomenon that describes a material's ability to conduct electricity without experiencing any resistance. This property allows them to lead the next generation of innovative and cutting-edge technologies, with the potential future uses including superconducting electric motors in the aerospace industry, superconducting magnets in advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners, and superconducting transmission lines for highly efficient electrical energy transfer. There is also a big potential to contribute to the quantum technologies research through the development of superconducting qubits (quantum bits) for information processing and communication using superconducting electric circuits.
Despite the many potential ground-breaking uses of superconductors, their widespread application is hindered by the fact that they need to be cooled down to very low critical temperatures for superconductivity to emerge. Room temperature superconductors are regarded as the holy grail of condensed matter physics, being sought for more than a century. High temperature superconductors were first discovered in the 1980s and since then a considerable research effort has been dedicated to controlling the properties of these materials. Iron-based high temperature superconductors were first discovered in 2008 and since then a rich variety of superconducting materials displaying increased critical temperatures and high current densities were identified. A major advantage is the high natural abundance of iron, highest among all metals, which makes a potential widespread practical application of the technology feasible and sustainable, while the iron ore extraction is unlikely to cause geopolitical issues, as was the case of lithium or cobalt, the metallic constituents of the current battery technology. The focus of this project, which falls within the EPSRC Physical Sciences (Functional ceramics and inorganics) research theme, is to synthesise new iron-based superconductors, which are encouraging in terms of device applications. The aim of the project is to design new layered iron-based phases with unusual structural motifs and novel building blocks through exploratory hydrothermal and solvothermal syntheses. Determining composition-structure-property relationships will be central to investigating the origins of superconductivity in this class of materials and optimising their magnetic, electronic, and superconducting properties. Chemical and physical tuning of the newly synthesised structures will be explored to increase maximum critical temperatures and control the superconducting regime. The newly synthesised and optimised compounds will be studied with the state-of-the-art characterisation techniques at the Diamond Light Source and the ISIS facility.

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/S023828/1 01/04/2019 30/09/2027
2404118 Studentship EP/S023828/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2024 Ludmila Babicova