A new X-ray movie technique using extreme ultraviolet (XUV) pulses from Artemis, could help unravel the mysteries of phenomena such as magnetism or high-temperature superconductivity.
The new materials science beamline at Artemis has succeeded in making movies of electronic and structural changes in a complex material, using XUV pulses produced through high harmonic generation, a technique where a laser is fired into a gas jet and just one part in a million is converted into XUV pulses.
Members of the international collaboration from the STFC Central Laser Facility, Diamond Light Source and the universities of Hamburg, Lausanne, Oxford and Padua used these XUV pulses to study a layered crystal of Tantalum Disulphide. The resulting movies – whose frames captured slices of time lasting less than a millionth of a millionth of a second –revealed that electrical conductivity in this material is governed by strong interactions between the electrons themselves.
Understanding this type of ‘correlated-electron’ behaviour is of crucial importance, since it underlies effects such as high-temperature superconductivity. Superconductivity is the phenomenon where electric current can travel through a material with no loss, because the material is a perfect conductor with zero resistance. Although superconductors are widely used, how they work is less well understood. Even high temperature superconductors need to be kept at -170°C, requiring sophisticated cryogenics systems.
The world has ever increasing energy requirements and the search is on to find superconductors that work at room temperature. Understanding the complex physics that underlies this phenomenon is the key.
Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald