Sensing Superconductivity

The Meissner Effect

The Meissner Effect in which a magnet levitates above a superconductor cooled by liquid nitrogen. Credit: Dreamstime
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Superconductors expel magnetic fields from the bulk of their interior and can conduct electricity without resistance. Using muons we can understand the mechanisms of superconductivity, a state of matter reached by some materials when they are cooled to very low temperatures. Muons can probe the mixed state of high temperature superconductors and can explore the interplay between magnetism and superconductivity in devices made from alternating layers of magnetic and superconducting materials.

“Trying to understand superconductivity and get it to work at higher temperatures is one of the grand challenges of physical science.  What you need is an experimental technique to understand new superconductors from the inside, seeing how they respond to magnetic fields and then deducing the stiffness of the superfluid condensate that makes them work.  Muons provide just that, since the way they precess in magnetic fields allows you to figure out the way magnetic fields are distributed within the superconductor.  The very low background that you get at ISIS makes it perfect for doing this sort of experiment.  By collaborating with very good chemistry groups who are discovering new superconducting materials all the time, it's been possible to do these measurements in materials almost immediately after the compounds have been discovered.” Professor Steve Blundell, University of Oxford.

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