from the world's big
Strange quantum effect found in an exotic superconductor
Researchers discovered a mysterious quantum effect that breaks a 60-year-old physics theorem.
- Princeton scientists lead an international team that discovered unusual behavior in iron-based superconductors.
- The researchers observed how adding cobalt atoms disrupted superconductivity.
- The experiment demonstrated unexpected quantum behavior.
An international team of researchers observed an unexpected quantum effect in an exotic superconductor. Their discovery can lead to the next generation of energy-saving technologies.
Traditional superconductors, used for conducting electricity without resistance, work at low temperatures. However, some iron-based superconductors discovered about a decade ago, work at high temperatures. How they do it has been unclear, especially as the magnetism of iron conflicts with the appearance of superconductivity, explains the press release from Princeton, whose scientists led the research.
Figuring out how these iron-based superconductors operate could open doors to new applications, prompting the focus of researchers. They probed these materials by adding impurities — atoms of cobalt — to see how superconductivity was created and dissipated. Introducing cobalt has been shown to make iron-based superconductors to lose the property of superconductivity. It starts acting like a regular metal, where electrical flow is met with resistance and loss of energy.
The team's leader, M. Zahid Hasan, Professor of Physics at Princeton University, likened their approach to throwing a stone in the water to see how water would react, pointing out "The way the superconducting properties react to the impurity reveals their secrets with quantum-level detail."
Their team employed a technique called scanning tunneling microscopy to image individual atoms in a superconductor made of lithium, iron and arsenic while they added in cobalt atoms. They were able to observe how introducing more cobalt atoms made superconductivity disappear.
What was surprising, the researchers found that the cobalt atoms were able to disrupt electron pairing while replacing iron atoms in the metal. This behavior, which resulted in a quantum phase transition, changing the state from superconducting to non-superconducting, also violated the well-established Anderson's theorem. Proposed in 1959 by the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Philip Anderson, it was the accepted explanation for what would happen if you added impurities to a superconductor. The new research clearly shows an exception to Anderson's theorem.
Another unusual find revealed that the cobalt impurities also transformed the nature and the shape of the so-called "energy gap" - a feature emblematic of superconductivity. The shape of the gap is indicative of the "order parameter" linked to the nature of the superconductivity. The effect on this property is mysterious and points to a sign change in the order parameter's phase.
From left to right: Graduate student Nana Shumiya, Professor M. Zahid Hasan, Postdoctoral Research Associate Jia-Xin Yin and Graduate Student Yuxiao Jiang. Photo by Zijia Cheng
Credit: Princeton University
Postdoctoral researcher Ilya Belopolski, the co-author of the study, explained the significance of the researchers' feat:
"Naively, distinguishing between conventional superconductivity and sign-changing superconductivity requires a phase-sensitive measurement of the superconducting order parameter, which can be extremely challenging," said Belopolski. "A beautiful aspect of our experiment is that by considering violations of Anderson's theorem, we can get around this requirement.
Check out the study published in Physical Review Letters.
Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.
Here's why you might eat greenhouse gases in the future.
- The company's protein powder, "Solein," is similar in form and taste to wheat flour.
- Based on a concept developed by NASA, the product has wide potential as a carbon-neutral source of protein.
- The man-made "meat" industry just got even more interesting.
Seriously sustainable<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTk0MDIzNS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjM4NTMzMX0.BCEfYnn6C3z1zUHIS38xOWjXktgamNBi5iyqklSMYK8/img.png?width=980" id="ea524" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="50533380eeb18eb5833b6b6aa3abec38" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Solar Foods<p>Solar Foods makes Solein by extracting CO₂ from air using <a href="https://www.fastcompany.com/90356326/we-have-the-tech-to-suck-co2-from-the-air-but-can-it-suck-enough-to-make-a-difference" target="_blank">carbon-capture technology</a>, and then combines it with water, nutrients and vitamins, using 100 percent renewable solar energy from partner <a href="https://www.fortum.com" target="_blank">Fortum</a> to promote a natural fermentation process similar to the one that produces yeast and lactic acid bacteria.</p><p>When the company claims its single-celled protein is "free from agricultural limitations," they're not kidding. Being produced indoors means Solar Foods is not dependent on arable land, water (i.e., rain), or favorable weather.</p><p>The company is already working with the European Space Agency to develop foods for off-planet production and consumption. (The idea for Solein actually began at NASA.) They also see potential in bringing protein production to areas whose climate or ground conditions make conventional agriculture impossible.</p><p>And let's not forget all those <a href="https://www.bk.com/menu-item/impossible-whopper" target="_blank">beef-free burgers</a> based on pea and soy proteins currently gaining popularity. The environmental challenge of scaling up the supply of those plants to meet their high demand may provide an opening for the completely renewable Solein — the company could provide companies that produce animal-free "meats," such as <a href="https://www.beyondmeat.com/products/" target="_blank">Beyond Meat</a> and <a href="https://impossiblefoods.com" target="_blank">Impossible Foods</a>, a way to further reduce their environmental impact.</p>
The larger promise<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTk0MDI0MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NjU4MTg2OX0.7dZZYT5WEV_EupBuLVFwHynarTiz8RYR9aJtC6Ts2C4/img.jpg?width=980" id="3415d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2e6eebe06d795f844752f9e9d30040d7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Solar Foods<p>The impact of the beef — and for that matter, poultry, pork, and fish — industries on our planet is widely recognized as one of the main drivers behind climate change, pollution, habitat loss, and antibiotic-resistant illness. From the cutting down of rainforests for cattle-grazing land, to runoff from factory farming of livestock and plants, to the disruption of the marine food chain, to the overuse of antibiotics in food animals, it's been disastrous.</p><p>The advent of a promising source of protein derived from two of the most renewable things we have, CO₂ and sunlight, <a href="https://solarfoods.fi/environmental-impact/" target="_blank">gets us out of the planet-destruction business</a> at the same time as it offers the promise of a stable, long-term solution to one of the world's most fundamental nutritional needs.</p>
Solar Foods' timetable<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTk0MTEzMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTU5OTU1OTMwMn0.wnXh56iO_77x2XKV2uIPf78BKw4AJLUpmiyq_JBVGvo/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=172%2C146%2C62%2C135&height=700" id="0297c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="125c9a98ec818f5c241fa28ef1423e67" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Lubsan / Shutterstock / Big Think<p>While company plans are always moderated by unforeseen events — including the availability of sufficient funding — Solar Foods plans a global commercial rollout for Solein in 2021 and to be producing two million meals annually, with a revenue of $800 million to $1.2 billion by 2023. By 2050, they hope to be providing sustenance to 9 billion people as part of a $500 billion protein market.</p><p>The project began in 2018, and this year, they anticipate achieving three things: Launching Solein (check), beginning the approval process certifying its safety as a Novel Food in the EU, and publishing plans for a 1,000-metric ton-per-year factory capable of producing 500 million meals annually.</p>
The protein powder Solein. Image source: SOLAR FOODS
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