President's Report Masthead
December 31, 2013
Scientists create first computer-designed superconductor

Jonathan Cohen
Aleksey Kolmogorov and international colleagues have successfully synthesized the first superconductor designed entirely on the computer.

Scientists create first computer-designed superconductor

A Binghamton University scientist and his international colleagues reported recently on the successful synthesis of the first superconductor designed entirely on the computer. Their findings were published in October in Physical Review Letters, the leading journal in the field.

Aleksey Kolmogorov, assistant professor of physics at Binghamton, proposed the new superconductor in Physical Review Letters in 2010 and then teamed up with leading experimental groups in Germany, Belgium, Italy and France to test the prediction.

The synthesized material — a novel iron tetraboride compound — is made out of two common elements, has a brand-new crystal structure and exhibits an unexpected type of superconductivity for a material that contains iron, just as predicted in the original computational study.

“Paradigm-shifting superconducting materials have so far been discovered experimentally, and oftentimes accidentally,” Kolmogorov says.

Until now, theory has been used primarily to investigate superconducting mechanisms and, in rare cases, suggest ways that existing materials might be modified to become superconductors. But many proposed superconducting materials are not stable enough to form and those that do form are poor superconductors.

Superconductors, which conduct electric current without any resistance when cooled below a certain temperature, have many interesting applications. For instance, power lines made out of superconducting materials can significantly reduce the energy lost in transmission. Superconducting magnets are also used in high-speed levitating trains and could improve wind turbines.

Read more about Kolmogorov’s work in Discover-e: