Another step towards the future supercomputers – scientists discovered the hidden superconductivity of graphene

Let’s start out with what is graphene. Graphene is an allotrope of carbon in the form of a two-dimensional, atomic-scale, hexagonal lattice in which one atom forms each vertex. Graphene has first been observed back in 1962 but it wasn’t isolated and characterized until recently. There is such an interest around graphene due to its properties – it is lightweight yet very strong and flexible and has excellent conductivity. Almost two years ago Laptopmedia had an article about the potential use of graphene in electronics which you can read here if you haven’t.

Now, why do we mention graphene again? Since its rediscovery in 2004 scientists have speculated that it could be a potential superconductor and now a brand new research has proven it. Superconductivity of graphene has been known but not by its own – only when coupled with other superconducting materials. But now a research led by the University of Cambridge managed to achieve graphene’s own superconductivity by coupling it with a material called praseodymium cerium copper oxide (PCCO).

To smooth things out for those of you who are not much into physics or chemistry, superconductivity is a phenomenon where electric current runs with absolutely zero electrical resistance through a specific material called a superconductor. This phenomenon occurs when the material is cooled to a very low temperature called critical temperature.

Back to the new research and graphene. As we already said superconductivity has been observed in graphene but only when coupled with a metallic-based superconductor. In such case, the observed superconductivity is not actually the graphene’s own but as Dr. Angelo Di Bernardo of the St John’s College said: “simply that of the underlying superconductor being passed on.”

Using a technique called scanning and tunnelling microscopy the scientists managed to distinguish the superconductivity of PCCO from the one of graphene. Long story short a superconductor is made out of electron pairs and superconductivity has different types depending on the spin alignment between the electrons of a pair. In the case of PCCO, the pairs state is known as a “d-wave state.” The results of the experiment suggest that electron pairs within graphene were in a p-wave state. This means that the superconductivity observed in graphene was actually its own and not PCCO’s. Dr. Jason Robinson said:

This was a really important step because it meant that we knew the superconductivity was not coming from outside it and that the PCCO was therefore only required to unleash the intrinsic superconductivity of graphene.

The so-called “p-wave” superconductivity is still not fully proven but the result strongly suggests it. The research team claims that such a discovery could revolutionize the creation and exploration of new superconducting devices such as a transistor-like device which superconductivity could be used in molecular electronics.

What do you think about this new discovery? Will it drastically change the electronic industry or will it be forgotten?

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