Collaboration reveals interplay between charge order and nanoscale superconductivity
(News from Nanowerk) High-temperature superconductivity is something of a holy grail for researchers studying quantum materials. Superconductors, which conduct electricity without dissipating energy, promise to revolutionize our energy and telecommunications systems. However, superconductors typically operate at extremely low temperatures, requiring elaborate freezers or expensive coolants.
For this reason, scientists have worked tirelessly on understanding the fundamental mechanisms underlying high-temperature superconductivity with the ultimate goal of designing and engineering novel near-room-temperature superconducting quantum materials.
Fabio Boschini, professor at the National Institute for Scientific Research (INRS), and North American scientists have studied the dynamics of the superconductor yttrium barium copper oxide (YBCO), which offers superconductivity at higher than normal temperatures, via time-resolved resonance X-ray free-electron laser scattering Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), SLAC (US).
The research has been published in Science (“Improved coherence of charge density waves in a high-temperature, light-quenched superconductor”). In this new study, the researchers were able to track how charge density waves in YBCO react to a sudden “quenching” of superconductivity, induced by an intense laser pulse.
“We are learning that charge density waves – self-organizing electrons behaving like ripples in water – and superconductivity interact at the nanoscale on ultrafast time scales. There is a very deep connection between the ’emergence of superconductivity and charge density waves’, explains Fabio Boschini, co-researcher on this project and affiliate researcher at the Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute (Blusson QMI).
“Until a few years ago, researchers underestimated the importance of the dynamics inside these materials,” said Giacomo Coslovich, principal investigator and scientist at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California. “Until this collaboration materialized, we really did not have the tools to assess the dynamics of charge density waves in these materials. The opportunity to observe the evolution of charge order is only possible through teams like ours sharing resources and using a free-electron laser to offer new insight into the properties dynamics of matter.
With a better picture of the dynamic interactions underlying high-temperature superconductors, the researchers are optimistic that they can work with theoretical physicists to develop a framework that allows for a more nuanced understanding of how high-temperature superconductivity emerges. .
Collaboration is key
The present work is the result of a collaboration between researchers from several leading research centers and beamlines. “We started to carry out our first experiments at the end of 2015 with the first characterization of the material at the Canadian Light Source, specifies Boschini. Over time, the project has involved many Blusson QMI researchers, such as MengXing Na whom I mentored and initiated into this work. It was an integral part of data analysis.
“This work is significant for a number of reasons, but it also really shows the importance of forming lasting and meaningful collaborations and relationships,” Na said. “Some projects take a very long time, and it’s thanks to Giacomo’s leadership and persistence that we got there.”
The project brought together at least three generations of scientists, following some as they progressed through their postdoctoral careers and into professorships. The researchers are excited to expand on this work by using light as an optical button to control the on-off state of superconductivity.