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‘Lazarus Superconductivity’ in Rediscovered Material Could Aid Quantum Computer Development

A research team including University of Maryland physicists observed a rare phenomenon called re-entrant superconductivity in the material uranium ditelluride. The discovery furthers the case for uranium ditelluride as a promising material for use in quantum computers.

Nicknamed “Lazarus superconductivity” after the biblical figure who rose from the dead, the phenomenon occurs when a superconducting state arises, breaks down, then re-emerges in a material due to a change in a specific parameter—in this case, the application of a very strong magnetic field. The researchers published their results yesterday in the journal Nature Physics.

Superconductivity is a state in which electrons travel through a material with perfect efficiency. Lazarus superconductivity is especially strange, because strong magnetic fields usually destroy the superconducting state in the vast majority of materials. In uranium ditelluride, however, a strong magnetic field coupled with specific experimental conditions caused Lazarus superconductivity to arise not just once, but twice.

Previous research by the same team, published Aug. 16 in the journal Science, described the rare and exotic ground state known as spin-triplet superconductivity in uranium ditelluride. The discovery marked the first clue that uranium ditelluride is worth a second look.

The new paper’s lead author is Sheng Ran, a research associate at UMD’s Center for Nanophysics and Advanced Materials; co-authors include Nicholas Butch, an adjunct assistant professor of physics at UMD and a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology Center for Neutron Research, Johnpierre Paglione, a professor of physics at UMD and CNAM director, and researchers from NIST, the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory and the University of Oxford.

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