New Approach to Superconducting Circuitry May Yield New Quantum Technologies
Controlling superconducting regions within an exotic metal
+ Superconductivity has fascinated scientists for many years since it offers the potential to revolutionize current technologies. Materials only become superconductors — meaning that electrons can travel in them with no resistance — at very low temperatures. These days, this unique zero resistance superconductivity is commonly found in a number of technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Future technologies, however, will harness the total synchrony of electronic behavior in superconductors — a property called the phase. There is currently a race to build the world’s first quantum computer, which will use these phases to perform calculations. Conventional superconductors are very robust and hard to influence, and the challenge is to find new materials in which the superconducting state can be easily manipulated in a device.
“We could, for example, change the regions of superconductivity by modifying the material’s distortion using a microactuator,” says Moll. “The ability to isolate and connect superconducting regions on a chip could also create a kind of switch for future quantum technologies, a little like the transistors used in today’s computing.”
+ To achieve this feat, the scientists sliced very thin layers of CeIrIn5 — only around a thousandth of a millimeter thick — that they joined to a sapphire substrate. When cooled, the material contracts significantly whereas the sapphire contracts very little. The resulting interaction puts stress on the material, as if it were being pulled in all directions, thus slightly distorting the atomic bonds in the slice.
+ As the superconductivity in CeIrIn5 is unusually sensitive to the material’s exact atomic configuration, engineering a distortion pattern is all it takes to achieve a complex pattern of superconductivity. This new approach allows researchers to “draw” superconducting circuitry on a single crystal bar, a step that paves the way for new quantum technologies.
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