A team from the University of Toronto has developed a new technique that transforms semiconductors into superconductors using the most simple of products — Scotch tape. The international team of physicists used the household product to induce high-temperature superconductivity in a semiconductor for the first time, and they believe it could pave the way for new devices with greater energy-efficiency. If Scotch tape is the latest breakthrough product in the world of physics, surely it’s only a matter of time before Blu-Tac steps up to the plate, right?
For those who aren’t physicists, high-temperature superconductors are materials that conduct electricity without heating up or losing energy at liquid nitrogen temperatures. They are used to transmit electricity with low loss and are set to be used in developing fields like quantum computing.
There are only certain compounds that have high-temperature superconducting properties, such as iron, copper and oxygen. They are known as cuprates and were believed to be impossible to incorporate with semi-conductors — until now! The team discovered that Scotch tape has the properties to generate superconductivity in an otherwise normal semi-conductor.
“Who would have thought simply sticking things together can generate entirely new effects?” said team leader and U of T physicist Ken Burch. “Typically, junctions between semi-conductors and superconductors were made by complex material growth procedures and fabricating devices with features smaller than a human hair,” explains Burch. “However the cuprates have a completely different structure and complex chemical make-up that simply can’t be incorporated with a normal semiconductor.”
Using double-sided Scotch tape, the team used glass to place high-temperature superconductors in proximity with a special type of semi-conductor known as a topological insulator. The result saw induced superconductivity in these otherwise novel semi-conductors.
Images: University of Toronto and jepoirrier