SCIENTISTS FEEL JAHN-TELLER METALS COULD HELP THEM UNDERSTAND THE PHYSICS BEHIND HIGH TEMPERATURE SUPERCONDUCTORS.
Till now we have known 3 states of matter: Solid, Liquid and Gas. To add to it some of them may be aware of Plasma state as well, however it seems there exists a whole lot of other states which do not exist in nature however would occur under extreme laboratory conditions.
An International team of scientists who were conducting a study on some unconventional superconductors have discovered an entirely new state of matter that is named Jahn-Teller Metal. The new state of matter has been found in a material that seems to be an insulator, a superconductor, a metal and with magnetic properties………….sort of all in one. Science Advances published these findings in their journal recently.
It had been earlier observed that some materials had the property to achieve superconductivity at a relativity high critical temperature (Tc) and with the discovery of Jahn-Teller Metal, scientists can now try to understand the physics behind this property.
What is superconductivity? When a material conducts electricity without any resistance, it is a superconductor of electricity. Due to lack of resistance there is no loss of energy either in form of heat or sound or any other form. In normal cases when metals are used to transmit electricity there is electrical resistance in the form of heat which results in loss of energy. On the other hand if a material is superconductor of electricity then electrons pair up and start moving throughout the superconducting materials without any resistance and hence no loss of energy. However, scientists have seen that superconductivity can be achieved only at relatively higher temperatures i.e. very cold temperature.
Scientists are working to create such a Superconductivity and if they succeed then it would entirely revolutionize the aspect of production of energy and its usage.
A huge international team led by Kosmas Prassides of Tohoku University, Japan seems to have discovered a method wherein metal will conduct electricity at very high temperatures without loss of heat or energy. The team introduced rubidium into carbon-60-molecules that was arranged in the form of hollow spheres known as “fullerenes”. These spherical fullerenes are also called “buckyballs”, due to their resemblance to the balls used in football (soccer). The international team of scientists then put this combination through a number of tests which changed the distance between them and forced them to get converted into a new crystalline structure that displayed a combination of insulating, superconducting, metallic, magnetic phase which is an altogether a new state of matter that has been baptized as “Jahn-Teller Metals”.
It has been observed that under low pressures, the geometric arrangement of molecules and ions in an electronic state gets distorted and this is known as Jahn-Teller effect in chemistry. Now in the above experiment carried out by Japanese scientists the distortion led to a new state of matter which transforms an insulator into a conductor. In simple words it means the one which cannot conduct electricity into a conductor of electricity by application of pressure.
As per the report at Motherboard:
“This is what the rubidium atoms do: apply pressure. Usually when we think about adding pressure, we think in terms of squeezing something, forcing its molecules closer together by brute force. But it’s possible to do the same thing chemically, tweaking the distances between molecules by adding or subtracting some sort of barrier between them – sneaking in some extra atoms, perhaps.
What happens in a Jahn-Teller metal is that as pressure is applied, and as what was previously an insulator – thanks to the electrically-distorting Jahn-Teller effect – becomes a metal, the effect persists for a while. The molecules hang on to their old shapes. So, there is an overlap of sorts, where the material still looks an awful lot like an insulator, but the electrons also manage to hop around as freely as if the material were a conductor.”
This discovery is of utmost importance as the novel transition phase between insulator and conductor opens up an array of possibilities to transform the insulating materials into super conducting materials and the new Jahn-Tellar metal with its buckyball crystalline structure seems to be able to this task at releatively high Tc.
As per Science Advances, scientists say: “The relationship between the parent insulator, the normal metallic state above Tc, and the superconducting pairing mechanism is a key question in understanding all unconventional superconductors,”
As per the report from Physics World: Elisabeth Nicol from the University of Guelph in Canada said: “Understanding the mechanisms at play and how they can be manipulated to change the Tc surely will inspire the development of new [superconducting] materials”.
This discovery would require a whole lot of further study so as to prove its energy production capabilities in the real world however for now it is the most excited topic for the science fraternity to have discovered this novel state of matter.