FSU professor to study superconductors with National Science Foundation grant
The principles of superconductivity make possible a variety of modern technological marvels. MRI machines, maglev trains and high-energy particle accelerators operate using superconductivity.
FAMU-FSU College of Engineering Professor Theo Siegrist will research materials that could improve superconductor performance with a nearly $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.
Superconductors move electricity without resistance and can generate strong magnetic fields. But nearby magnetic fields or temperatures above a certain threshold can prevent them from functioning as superconductors, instead reverting them to the state of a normal metal with electrical resistance.
Siegrist will explore how a compound composed of niobium, palladium, and sulfur or selenium resists interference from these forces. The material is a Type II superconductor, which means it can tolerate some interference from magnetic fields. It retains its superconducting properties even with magnetic field interference four times greater than leading theories predict, making it an intriguing target for further investigation.
“Something is odd,” Siegrist said. “Something is interesting. If we understand why this is happening, then we can start thinking about designing other types of materials, where we can move to higher magnetic fields while maintaining superconductivity.
The researchers will grow crystals made of these compounds and examine them using X-rays to study their structures and how those structures correspond to their ability to resist interference.
The exact chemical mixture of the compound may contain varying amounts of palladium and sulfur or selenium. Previous research by Siegrist’s team has shown that the amount of palladium affects its ability to resist magnetic interference.
“We would like to understand the origin of this behavior,” Siegrist said. “Is there a microscopic origin? What does it depend on? Can it be designed? Can it be changed? We don’t really understand why it does this, but now we have a way to tweak it and query the system to see how it reacts.
Along with the research results, the project will also train graduate and doctoral students to continue advancing science, an important outcome in a world that relies on advanced tools such as superconductors.
“A graduate student is as much a product as a research result,” Siegrist said. “We need the next generation of researchers, whether they work in industry, government, academia or elsewhere.”