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A potential Rosetta Stone of high temperature superconductivity

April 7, 2015
Department of Energy, Office of Science
Just as the Rosetta Stone has the same message in three different scripts giving scholars insights into ancient languages, so cerium-cobalt-indium5 is offering insights into the interplay between magnetism, superconductivity, and disorder in three classes of unconventional superconductors.

High purity single crystals of superconducting material (CeCoIn5) with the highest observed superconducting temperature for a cerium-based material enabled investigation of the relationship among magnetism, superconductivity and disorder by strategic substitution of certain atoms with others (dopants) in the superconductor.

The Impact

Just as the Rosetta Stone has the same message written in three different scripts giving scholars key insights into ancient languages, the subject material (CeCoIn5), by virtue of its high purity, allows study of the interplay between magnetism, superconductivity and disorder in three different class of unconventional superconductors (cuprates, pnictides, and heavy fermions). The versatile model system could help researchers decipher the complex emergent phenomena in different classes of unconventional superconductors and in the development of a complete theory for the high temperature superconductivity.


Superconductivity enables the flow of electricity without any loss of energy, but this extremely-low temperature phenomenon disappears above a critical temperature (Tc). Since the discovery of a new class of materials in 1986, known as unconventional superconductors, that preserves superconductivity at temperatures much higher than previously known conventional superconductors, the scientific community has been on the quest to learn about the complete mechanisms for the unconventional superconductivity in order to enable the design of superconducting materials that operate near room temperature. In general, materials discovery for higher Tc superconductors has been pursued by controlled doping (strategic replacement of certain elements with others) of a starting material with an already high Tc. Although this approach seems to work to certain extent, predicting the superconducting behavior of newly synthesized materials remains a major challenge due to several complexities including the disorder in the crystalline materials.

An international team led by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory has demonstrated that the compound CeCoIn5 with incredibly high purity and the highest superconducting temperature for a cerium based material could serve as an ideal system to investigate the effect of disorder in the materials. Magnetic fluctuations, a driver for unconventional superconductivity, are indeed observed in pristine CeCoIn5, but locally disappear in the material doped with a small amount of cadmium (replacing indium).

Surprisingly, the superconducting transition temperature of the doped material remained nearly unaffected. This work shows that static 'droplets' of magnetism form around the doped atoms, but they do not impact the superconductivity in this material. It is expected that further research on this material will enable deciphering of other aspects of unconventional superconductivity that could pave way to the development of a more complete theory for this complex emergent phenomenon.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Department of Energy, Office of Science. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Simon Gerber, Marek Bartkowiak, Jorge L. Gavilano, Eric Ressouche, Nikola Egetenmeyer, Christof Niedermayer, Andrea D. Bianchi, Roman Movshovich, Eric D. Bauer, Joe D. Thompson, Michel Kenzelmann. Switching of magnetic domains reveals spatially inhomogeneous superconductivity. Nature Physics, 2013; 10 (2): 126 DOI: 10.1038/nphys2833

Cite This Page:

Department of Energy, Office of Science. "A potential Rosetta Stone of high temperature superconductivity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 April 2015. <>.
Department of Energy, Office of Science. (2015, April 7). A potential Rosetta Stone of high temperature superconductivity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 13, 2024 from
Department of Energy, Office of Science. "A potential Rosetta Stone of high temperature superconductivity." ScienceDaily. (accessed July 13, 2024).

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