University of Chicago, Nevada and Beijing University researchers have made a superconductor with a fairly high transition temperature (30 degrees kelvin) by putting one element Scandium under high pressure.
Superconductivity is one of most intriguing quantum phenomena, and the quest for elemental superconductors with high critical temperature (Tc) holds great scientific significance due to their relatively simple material composition and underlying mechanism. Here, we report an experimental discovery of densely compressed scandium (Sc) becoming the first elemental superconductor with Tc breaking into 30 K range, which is comparable to Tc values of the classic La-Ba-Cu-O or LaFeAsO superconductors. Our results show that Tconset of Sc increases monotonically from ~3 K at 43 GPa to ~32 K at 283 GPa (Tczero ~ 31 K), which is well above liquid Neon temperature. Interestingly, measured Tc shows no sign of saturation up to the maximum pressure of 283 GPa achieved in our experiments, indicating that Tc may go higher at further rising pressures. The lift of the 3d orbitals by pressure close to the Fermi energy contributes to enhanced electron-phonon coupling, leading to dramatic rise of Tc. This work demonstrates an effective strategy to produce high-Tc superconductivity via rational pressure induced electronic orbital engineering that may work in diverse materials.
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