(Phys.org) Researchers at Stanford University have recently carried out an in-depth study of nematic transitions in iron pnictide superconductors. Their paper presents new imaging data of these transitions collected using a microscope they invented, dubbed the scanning quantum cryogenic atom microscope (SQCRAMscope).
In the new microscope invented by Lev and his colleagues, atoms are levitated from an ‘atom chip’ trapping device using magnetic fields, until they are merely a micron above the sample slide. “The atoms we use are ultracold and in a quantum state: they have near absolute zero temperature and are among the coldest gases in the known universe,” Lev said.
“Once we demonstrated that the SQCRAMscope works, we began to search for a best first scientific use for it,” Lev explained. “Iron-based (pnictide) superconductors seemed like ideal candidates, as they exhibit interesting electron transport behavior on the micron length scale at accessible temperatures.”
Lev said. “The mechanism underlying their superconductivity remains a mystery. Researchers operating in our field hope that elucidating this mechanism will provide robust, room temperature, and ambient-pressure superconductors for use in a wide variety of technologies.”
The recent study carried out by Lev and his colleagues has a number of important implications. Most notably, it demonstrates, for the very first time, the potential of the researchers’ SQCRAMscope for studying physical phenomena.

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