June 10, 2009

Thinnest superconducting metal created

University of Texas at Austin physicists have created a superconducting lead sheet only two atoms thick, the thinnest such metal layer ever created.

Professor Ken Shih and colleagues said the achievement lays the groundwork for future superconductor technologies.

To be able to control this material -- to shape it into new geometries -- and explore what happens is very exciting, Shih said. My hope is that this superconductive surface will enable one to build devices and study new properties of superconductivity.

The scientists said superconductors can maintain an electrical current indefinitely with no power source. They are used in such applications as MRI machines, particle accelerators and quantum interference devices.

Shih said he and his colleagues used advanced materials synthesis techniques to lay the two-atom thick sheet of lead atop a thin silicon surface. The lead sheets are highly uniform with no impurities.

We can make this film, and it has perfect crystalline structure -- more perfect than most thin films made of other materials, Shih said.

He reports his achievement in the June 5 issue of Science.