Researchers Create A New Type Of Superconductor Thanks To Graphene And The ‘Magic Angle’


Graphene, also known as the wonder material, shows yet another sign of innovation. Scientists were able to turn it into a new kind of superconductor by putting two graphene layers on top of one another to conduct electrons.

The best part? Zero resistance.

Electricity with no resistance could be a groundbreaking turning point for the landscape of electronics. If it's somehow possible to consume less energy to move electric charge, electronics could perform more efficiently and be less expensive to run. This saves energy costs and might even help researchers come up with better quantum computers.

Conducting Electrons With Zero Resistance

So how was this possible? Well, according to a group of researchers from MIT, Harvard, and Japan's National Institute for Materials Sciences, it's all because of a slight twist. The incredible thing about this slight twist is that the researchers stumbled upon it by accident.

"It was a very unexpected discovery, having worked with graphene for a long time," said Pablo Jarillo-Herrero, an MIT scientist, noting that what they had created has "very similar characteristics to high-temperature superconductors that remain to be understood."

They were actually exploring what an orientation known as the "magic angle" — 1.1 degrees — would do to graphene. There are theories suggesting that offsetting atoms in layers of 2D material would cause interesting electron behavior — but scientists had no idea what "interesting" in this sense meant.

The researchers put two sheets of graphene, applied a small electric field, and they realized it had become a superconductor. They tried other experiments to see if they would get the same results. They did. Graphene continued to exhibit these properties in other experiments.

"We have produced all of this in different devices and measured it with collaborators. This is something in which we're very confident," said Jarillo-Herrero.

Magic Angle

Here's what's happening: In each sheet of graphene, the carbon atoms are found at each corner of a tessellation of hexagon. When two layers are stacked on top of one another and one is slowly twisted, the hexagons form patterns called Moire. This small twist is the so-called magic angle, and it fools the system into thinking that each unit hexagon is far larger. Take a look at the video below to see how this works:

Initially, the system was similar to a Mott insulator, but by adding an electric field, it became a superconductor. The researchers published a couple of papers on the subject in Nature. This graphene-based superconductor doesn't follow the rules of typical superconductors.

Physicists have long been studying about non-typical superconductors, most of them hoping to finally discover a system that can move electric charge without consuming so much energy. Not only did the researchers achieve superconductivity, but they might have also reached p-wave state, a tremendously powerful form of it.

The study might be crucial in the development of a superconductor that's able to function in room temperature, as most of them only work under near-absolute zero temperatures, which is costly and highly impractical for large-scale use. This study might be the first step in heading toward a brand-new direction.

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