Creating Flow Without Losing Energy by Tuning the Bonds of Paired Quantum Particles

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To Create Flow Without Losing Energy, Tune the Bonds of Paired Quantum Particles

Researchers may be able to use a tunable platform made of atomically thin materials to figure out how to make a robust quantum condensate that can flow without losing energy.

When electrons flowing through power lines and computers come into contact with resistance, they lose some of their energy, which is then dissipated as heat.

That’s why laptops get hot after a long period of use, and why the server farms that power the cloud need so much cooling to keep the machines cool.

In a typical environment, any particles carrying energy tend to lose that energy as they flow.

There are a few exceptions, which occur when particles form pairs called quantum condensates at extremely low temperatures.

In some metals, such as aluminum, this results in superconductivity, with vanishing electrical resistance, and superfluidity in liquified helium, which can then flow without dissipation.

Many applications have been developed based on superconducting materials that show these quantum condensate states, ranging from dissipationless power transmission to quantum computation.

However, known superconducting materials must be kept cold, which is often impractical.

Researchers need to learn more about what causes quantum condensates to form in the first place in order to raise the temperature of energy-loss-free devices.

Superconductivity is the result of paired electrons in theory.

However, in most materials, that pairing is weak—two negatively charged particles don’t normally want to pair—and the pairing strength is fixed.

Cory Dean and James Hone of Columbia University, Xiaomeng Liu, Philip Kim, and Bert Halperin of Harvard University, Jia Li of Brown University, and Kenji Watanabe and Takashi Taniguchi of NIMS in Japan describe a tunable, -based platform that uses opposite charges—electrons and holes—to form quantum particle pairs under strong magnetic fields in a new article in Science.

The team will be able to test theoretical predictions about the origins of quantum condensates and how they might increase the temperature limits of superconductivity by varying the strength of that pairing along a continuum.

The underlying theory is straightforward.

“If you can get electrons to pair, you can get them to superconduct,” Dean explained.

According to the Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer (BCS) theory, an attractive force between electrons, no matter how weak, will cause those electrons to pair up and form a new type of particle known as a “Cooper pair,” which behaves like bosons and, at low enough temperatures, can enter a collective state and move through a material without being hampered by disorder—a feature that a single electron simply cannot achieve on its own…

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