News of the WeekMaterials Science

Insulator's Baby Steps to Superconductivity

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Science  11 Dec 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5396, pp. 1966-1967
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5396.1966

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Physicists have been struggling to understand how layered ceramic insulators that are unable to conduct electricity can--with the addition of small amounts of other elements--give rise to high-temperature superconductors, which conduct electricity without any resistance whatsoever. Now an experiment reported on page 2067 reveals that the parent materials harbor an electrical signature reminiscent of a metal, a property never seen before in any insulator. Tantalizingly, the ceramic insulator that the researchers studied also showed signs of another property which gives rise to superconductivity in the offspring.