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Tired Of Your Computer Overheating? A Break Through In Understanding Superconductivity In Metals

A black magnet levitates slightly above a clear dish which sits on top of a block of liquid nitrogen.

Researchers at the University of Utah made a break-through discovery about superconductivity properties of metals using tiny wires. This could help reduce the amount of heat produced by equipment such as computers. 

For example, all metals have resistance, so when current flows through the metal inside a light bulb, it releases heat. It is the electrons in this metal that experience the resistance.

Superconductivity is the state of zero-electrical resistance.

According to Andrey Rogachev, associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Utah, a recent experiment using nanowires is helping researchers expand their knowledge of superconductivity and the amount of heat metals produce due to resistance.

“But there is a very special state of metal when electrons, in fact, can flow freely resulting in zero resistance of this wire,” Rogachev said. 

Superconductivity allows metals to not generate heat while energy is flowing through the metal. Think about how hot the metal parts on your computer can get when it is on your lap.

To study this, Rogachev and his collaborators used very tiny wires in a magnetic field to create a one-dimensional system about 100 atoms thick. For comparison, a piece of paper is about 300,000 atoms thick. 

“Then we apply a magnetic field, a strong magnetic field and this magnetic field destroys superconductivity and we have very fine control over what is happening in our system,” Rogachev said.

Researchers can fine-tune the magnetic field to better understand the properties of superconductivity.

Potential applications of this research include using nanowires in supercomputers to reduce the amount of heat they produce, an important application in our increasingly computer-based world.