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Science Technology

World's Smallest Superconductor Discovered 72

Posted by samzenpus
from the none-more-small dept.
arcticstoat writes "One of the barriers to the development of nanoscale electronics has potentially been eliminated, as scientists have discovered the world's smallest superconductor. Made up of four pairs of molecules, and measuring just 0.87nm, the superconductor could potentially be used as a nanoscale interconnect in electronic devices, but without the heat and power dissipation problems associated with standard metal conductors."
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World's Smallest Superconductor Discovered

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  • by An Ominous Cow Erred (28892) on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @06:29PM (#31695074)

    This doesn't do us a lot of good in most applications if we have to cool our processors with liquid nitrogen.

    • by An Ominous Cow Erred (28892) on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @06:34PM (#31695140)

      (To clarify, superconductors do NOT work at room temperature -- the best ones (and the only ones we can really consider in practical applications) require cooling with something like liquid nitrogen. Moreover, this molecule is designed for size, rather than temperature, so I wonder if they had to compromise on how low you have to cool it. The lower temperature superconductors require liquid helium cooling, which goes into ridiculously cold territory.)

      The article does not seem to indicate the temperature that it works at.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        To clarify, superconductors do NOT YET work at room temperature

        FTFY.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Ramze (640788)
          "Not Yet" implies that it's something that is believed to be possible... which it isn't.

          Any physicist will tell you that super-conduction depends on keeping atoms in a specific tight arrangement. At room temperature, there is too much movement of atoms and space between them even in crystalline structures to allow for superconductivity. Superconductivity is a state of matter. There are no super-conducting gasses or liquids and there will very likely never be any super-conducting solids at room temp
          • by Cyberax (705495)

            "So, to clarify... superconductors will NEVER work at room temperature... at least according to the laws of physics as we understand them."

            Why not? At 133K atoms move around quite a lot, so there might not be a strict requirement for temperature.

            In fact, superconductivity-like phenomena (delocalized electrons in aromatic hydrocarbons, for example) are observed in some molecules for up to 500C (yes, that's about 700K).

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        The abstract [nature.com] of the Nature Nanotechnology article notes the superconducting transition temperature for the bulk material is around 8 Kelvin, which is definitely liquid helium range (nitrogen boils at 77K). They do go on to note, however, that at very small levels of this molecule, the superconducting gap decays exponentially with the number of linked molecules, and that 4 pairs is the minimum number where any effect at all was seen. So I don't have an exact temperature, but at least liquid helium (boils at
      • Cut your arrogance. You sound like a physician.

        To clarify, the superconductors we know do NOT work at room temperature yet

        There, fixed that for ya.

        • by Ramze (640788)
          Cut your arrogance, sir. "Not Yet" implies that it's something that is believed to be possible to achieve... which it isn't.

          Any physicist will tell you that super-conduction depends on keeping atoms in a specific tight arrangement. At room temperature, there is too much movement of atoms and space between them even in crystalline structures to allow for superconductivity. Superconductivity is a state of matter. There are no super-conducting gasses or liquids (and there never will be!) and there will v
          • by Lord Crc (151920)

            It's not arrogance to say that superconductors will NEVER work at room temperature... at least according to the laws of physics as we understand them.

            What's the theoretical upper limit?

          • But then, Lord Kelvin said "Heavier than air flying machines are impossible".
    • by ls -la (937805) on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @06:39PM (#31695220) Journal

      This doesn't do us a lot of good in most applications if we have to cool our processors with liquid nitrogen.

      Except that most slashdotters already cool their systems with liquid nitrogen, or would love the excuse to make it so.

    • It has no use in CPU processing until it works at CPU temperatures. Yes, it would decrease the CPU operating temperature, but it still needs to handle the heat of nearby transistors and at the very least ROOM TEMPERATURES.
    • by rnaiguy (1304181) on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @06:53PM (#31695394)
      It needs to be below ~8k (from the article abstract) . Not even liquid nitrogen is enough, need liquid helium.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by msauve (701917)
        ITYM "8 K".

        SI units are capitalized when the name of the unit is derived from the name of a person.

        source [nist.gov]
        • by Anpheus (908711)

          I didn't know the Library of Congress was named after someone? Was there an ancient librarian named Mr. Congress?

          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward
            Yes, Mr Sexual Congress.
        • That’s not what’s important. What’s important, is that “k” stands for the prefix “kilo”. and 8 kilo can only make sense in countries that colloquially use it for “kilogram”.

          Same problem as “640 Kelvin-Bytes ought to be enough for anybody.” ^^
          Only Qalculate!, interpreting “MB” as “Megabarns” by default, can beat that!

          • by RockDoctor (15477)

            Only Qalculate!, interpreting "MB" as "Megabarns" by default, can beat that!

            Qualculate! being a programme that provides some services to the housing sales industry?

      • I will gladly spend energy on the refrigeration so that the processor won't use so much!

        The system works against me though - the processor dissipates massive amounts of energy that requires more energy to remove quickly with cooling.

        So what is more efficient in terms of energy consumption? A massive library that millions of people have contributed to over the eons, culminating in all the knowledge that I could ever want, and therefore any computation I need is achieved by a look-up? Or a supercomputer with

    • by Redlazer (786403)
      So you're telling me a recently discovered technology isn't perfect?

      The important thing here is that we found one physically smaller than anything else. Superconductors are also a pretty Big Deal - their unique properties are very handy in certain applications.

      Which is the point: it kicks open the doors of "...We just need something smaller". The consumer market is where stuff like this gets eventually. The applications for industry, development, and who knows what else could be far and wide.

      Your cyni

  • The bartender says "We don't serve superconductors in this bar." The world's smallest superconductor leaves without putting up any resistance.
  • by Takionbrst (1772396) on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @06:53PM (#31695386)
    Doing research in a solid state physics lab, I can tell you that this article is worth nothing without the inclusion of the critical temperature Tc at which the "superconductor" starts working. Given that its some sort of ceramic, its a class II superconductor which means that it could possibly be one of the "high Tc" superconductors, a misleading title because they do still need to be cooled with LN2 (just not liquid helium, a much more expensive/difficult prospect). If their "superconductor" only works at .7 kelvin, it's not very impressive--there are lots of materials that do that. To quote (more or less) one of my lab mates "if I dunked my cat in liquid helium, it would probably begin to superconduct." In summary, the devil is in the details.
    • by nebaz (453974) on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @07:17PM (#31695634)

      "if I dunked my cat in liquid helium, it would probably begin to superconduct."

      Icanhazsooperkundukter?

      (sorry)

    • by HiggsBison (678319) on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @07:20PM (#31695676)

      To quote (more or less) one of my lab mates "if I dunked my cat in liquid helium, it would probably begin to superconduct."

      "Probably"? So the cat might superconduct, and it might not. Sort of a Shrödinger's superconductor? Is that what you're getting at?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by peragrin (659227)

        think of the effect if you then tied a piece of buttered toast to the back of the cat and tossed it.

        The worlds first perpetual motion motion. a super conducting frozen, cat trying to land on it's feet while toast tries to land butter side down.

        • think of the effect if you then tied a piece of buttered toast to the back of the cat and tossed it.

          The worlds first perpetual motion motion. a super conducting frozen, cat trying to land on it's feet while toast tries to land butter side down.

          ...and as a bonus you get an anti-gravity system.

          • by Jedi Alec (258881)

            ...and as a bonus you get an anti-gravity system.

            Spinning-cat-powered-personal-flying-machines for everyone!

        • Think of the effect if you then tied a piece of buttered toast to the back of the cat and tossed it.

          ...superconducting, frozen buttered toast, of course.

          Hey! HEY! I'm reporting you to both the American and Royal Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Toast!

          Lisa! In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!

    • by Compuser (14899) on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @07:25PM (#31695722)

      First, this is not a type II. It's not a BCS superconductor at all.
      In fact, given that they do not show Meissner effect, one wonders how they conclude it is a superconductor. Heck, the paper does not even show resistance - just a density of states which is depressed at Fermi level. That could be due to anything (like a CDW). This paper seems like it is full of shit until proven otherwise. I would not pass it if I were the reviewer.

      • Yeah, I figured the literature was probably fluff so I didn't even bother to track it down. It's interesting that they can't even show an expulsion of flux--my experience has been that you can take quite a few ceramics and throw them into a SQUID and see the "Meissner" effect... but when you try and measure resistivity it's always finite but measurable. Seems they didn't even get that far...
    • To quote (more or less) one of my lab mates "if I dunked my cat in liquid helium, it would probably begin to superconduct."

      Yes, but would it still work afterwards?

  • It is worth noting that much (silicon included) doesn't scatter electrons over such a short range, so a great many materials could technically be quantified as superconductors on this scale.
    The reason such small things aren't normally touted as "superconducting" is because the contact resistance with something so small becomes so amazingly large that the whole reason of having a superconductor is destroyed. This is precisely why the superconducting regimes of graphene and nanotubes aren't practical: form
    • There are notable differences, but you're right, it's not necessarily useful. Superconductors are perfect diamagnets, however, excluding magnetic fields completely, perfect conductors will not do this.
  • by viking80 (697716) on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @08:51PM (#31696350) Journal

    The superconductor is a type of organic salt placed on a silver substrate

    I wonder how they test for superconductivity when placing this tiny conductor on a substrate of massive silver, known as the best conductor there is, excluding superconductors.

  • Psh. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by naturaverl (628952)
    That's nothing. I've got an infinite number of superconductors right here that are exactly 0 nm in size. And they'll even work at room temperature!
  • My recent OU Science degree is now worth that much more...

    Also, congrats to Hla and his group.
  • I don't care to read the comments, someone probably mentioned this, mod me down if they did, but superconductors are great, though they aren't necessary for saving energy at the nanoscale. A number of things are close to perfect normal everyday conductors at this scale, notably graphene and single walled nanotubes. They have a very low effective electron mass, meaning that over nanoscales the charge carriers will experience no collisions at all. Superconductors are superconductors due to electrons conden

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