One day the electricity coming to our or our descendants' homes may be carried by superconducting cables that transmit electrical currents without resistance. This has been a dream of many for a long time, and continually we are working to achieve it. There are many avenues to this work and researchers at LANL have been focusing on understanding how electrons act in high temperature superconductors.
The theory explaining how low temperature superconductors work was put together in 1957, and while it works well for those materials, it does not explain high temperature superconductors, like yttrium barium copper oxide. Besides the higher critical temperature to set them apart, these materials can also have the temperature they superconduct at changed by doping them. To understand how this works, and if it is related to a quantum critical point, the LANL researchers used a range of dopings and exposed the superconductors to high magnetic fields in excess of 90 Tesla. The magnetic fields had the effect of suppressing the superconductivity, so that the electrons could be observed before superconducting.
The results of the study indicate that the quantum critical point, which is the doping value where electron interactions are strengthened by quantum fluctuations, does in fact drive the transition temperatures of these superconductors. This has been a question for some time, and once finally solved could explain how the electrons pair up to become superconducting, in high temperature superconductors.
Source: Los Alamos National Laboratory