Scotch Tape Turns Semiconductors Into Superconductors
Move over, duct tape; you’re not the only brand of store bought tape with near-magical powers anymore. Scotch tape, that humblest denizen of the office supply store, has surprised researchers at the University of Toronto with the ability to transform semiconductors into high-energy superconductors. The discovery could have repercussions for the computing industry — especially the young field of quantum computing — and could even improve energy efficiency in electronics in general.
High temperature superconductors are used for delivering large amounts of energy at a low loss, and are valued for their ability to keep functioning at high efficiency at low temperatures. Some, called cuprates, can even function well at high temperatures –unfortunately, they don’t do well with workaday semiconductors. The two have to be incorporated using expensive, hard to synthesize materials, if they can work together at all. That has hindered researchers’ ability to use the materials, or even study them to find out their real potential.
By connecting cuprate superconductors to a special variety of semiconductor called a topological insulator with a little Scotch tape and a glass slide, the research team was able to marry the two substances more effectively than anyone expected, inducing superconducting properties in a semicondutor for the first time. This on the cheap solution could be just the thing for bringing superconducting materials into the spotlight for research going forward.