Feb 19, 2021

Twisted trilayer graphene could help make high-temperature superconductors

Posted by in categories: materials, particle physics

Two’s company, but three’s a crowd – unless you’re trying to make graphene superconduct at higher temperatures. That is the finding of researchers at Harvard University in the US, who discovered that the superconducting state in three stacked and twisted layers of graphene is more robust to temperature increase than the equivalent state in two-layer graphene. The researchers also found evidence that superconductivity in the trilayer system comes from strong interactions between electrons, rather than weak ones as in most conventional superconductors – corroborating a result reported a few days earlier by a separate team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

A sheet of graphene consists of a simple repetition of carbon atoms arranged in a two-dimensional hexagonal lattice. When two sheets of graphene are placed atop each other and slightly misaligned, they form a moiré pattern, or “stretched” superlattice that dramatically changes the electronic interactions in the material compared to its pristine counterpart. The misalignment angle is critical: in 2018, the MIT group, led by Pablo Jarillo-Herrero, discovered a so-called “magic” angle of 1.1° where the material switches from an insulator to a superconductor. This means the twisted graphene can carry electrical current with no resistance below a superconducting transition temperature, Tc, of 1.7 K.

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