Researchers at the London Centre for Nanotechnology and the Physics Department of Sapienza University of Rome have found it is possible to “draw” superconducting circuitry smaller than the width of human hair using X-Ray beams.
While this may sound fairly unspectacular it may hold the key to one of the great challenges of the computing era, the so called “travelling salesman problem.”
The researchers believe that this new one step ability generate superconductors will have a huge impact on new electronic devices specifically being able to re-write superconducting logic circuits, which they hope will enable them to create computers to solve the previously mentioned problem on-demand, which applications ranging from genetics to inventory management.
The phenomenon of superconductivity was discovered in 1911 by Dutch physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes. Onnes was interested in the behaviour of materials at extreme cryogenic temperatures. He discovered that at these low temperatures some materials displayed zero electrical resistance.
Since then superconductivity has been exploited in many technological applications that we all (probably) take for granted, ie: Superconducting electromagenets used in highspeed trains, MRI scanners, and also used as beam-steering and focusing magnets in particle accelerators; RF and microwave filters as used in mobile phone base stations; and electric motors and generators.
The leader of the team from Sapienza, Prof Bianconi was quoted as saying: “It is amazing that in a few simple steps, we can now add superconducting ‘intelligence’ directly to a material consisting mainly of the common elements copper and oxygen.”
The X-ray experiments were performed at the Elettra (Trieste) synchrotron radiation facility.
Original publication of the work can be found in Nature Materials , 21 August 2011 (doi:1038/nmat3088) and is a follow up from the previous discovery of fractal-like structures in superconductors (doi:10.1038/nature09260).