London, July 22 : A team of researchers from Rutgers and Columbia universities have proposed a new type of electron pairing that they believe may help realise superconductivity at room temperature someday.
The researchers insist that electrons must bind together into pairs called 'Cooper pairs' for materials to become superconducting.
"We've found that the electrons form much stronger pairs if they team up with one of the tiny atomic magnets - a combination that might be called a quantum-mechanical 'menage a trios,'" Nature magazine quoted Piers Coleman, physics professor at Rutgers, as saying.
"The spin in the middle brings the pair of electrons close together, and a stronger pair means superconductivity at higher temperatures," Coleman said.
This proposition attains significance because superconductivity at present occurs only at extremely cold temperatures, a reason why its use is limited to specialized medical and scientific instruments.
Rutgers graduate student Rebecca Flint said: "In earlier studies, a small amount of magnetism was lethal to this pairing; however, in these materials, magnetism is not bad. It actually appears to play a central role in driving the pairing effect."
The researchers believe that the new insight may be applied to materials that make up the present-day highest-temperature superconductors, including copper or iron, which have active electrons in "d-orbitals", and where the superconductivity may occur much closer to room temperature.