In the pursuit of the computer of the future, researchers are increasingly exploring novel materials and pushing the boundaries of physical effects. The University of Zurich’s scientists have made significant strides in this endeavor by designing superconductors atom by atom, leading to the emergence of new states of matter.
The future computer is poised to undergo remarkable transformations, and the search for answers to shape its form and function remains a driving force in fundamental physics research. Various scenarios are being considered, spanning from advancements in classical electronics to the development of neuromorphic computing and quantum computers.
While diverse in their approaches, these envisioned computer systems share a common thread—they rely on the utilization of unconventional physical effects, some of which have thus far existed only in theoretical predictions. To unlock these phenomena, researchers devote considerable effort and employ cutting-edge equipment in the pursuit of new quantum materials that can bring these effects to life. But what if the materials required for these advancements do not occur naturally?
Novel approach to superconductivity
In a recent publication featured in Nature Physics, Professor Titus Neupert’s research group from the University of Zurich, in collaboration with physicists at the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics in Halle, Germany, proposed an innovative solution.
The researchers embarked on the task of fabricating the necessary materials themselves, atom by atom. Their focus was on exploring novel types of superconductors, which hold significant promise due to their ability to exhibit zero electrical resistance at low temperatures. Referred to as “ideal diamagnets,” these superconductors possess exceptional interactions with magnetic fields, making them highly relevant for applications in quantum computers. Theoretical physicists have dedicated years to investigating and forecasting various states of superconductivity. However, only a limited number of these states have been conclusively observed in real-world materials thus far, as explained by Professor Neupert.
By taking a groundbreaking approach to design superconductors atom by atom, the research team has opened up new possibilities in the field. Their work paves the way for the exploration and realization of previously predicted superconducting states, potentially unlocking unprecedented physical effects and advancing the development of future technologies.
Two new types of superconductivity
Through their collaborative efforts, the researchers at the University of Zurich and the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics have achieved significant progress in the creation of new superconductive phases.
In this remarkable collaboration, the UZH team employed their theoretical insights to predict the precise arrangement of atoms necessary for the emergence of a novel superconductive phase. Subsequently, their German counterparts conducted experimental investigations to implement this predicted atomic topology.
Using a scanning tunneling microscope, the researchers demonstrated their ability to manipulate and deposit atoms with remarkable precision, ensuring the atoms were positioned correctly. This technique also allowed them to measure the magnetic and superconductive properties of the system. By depositing chromium atoms onto the surface of superconducting niobium, the team successfully generated two distinct types of superconductivity. While previous methods have been employed to manipulate metal atoms and molecules, this study marks the first time that two-dimensional superconductors have been realized using such an approach.
These groundbreaking results not only validate the theoretical predictions put forth by the physicists but also offer tantalizing prospects for the creation of other novel states of matter using similar techniques. The implications of these discoveries extend to the realm of future quantum computers, where these newly created states may find practical applications and push the boundaries of computing capabilities even further.
Source: University of Zurich