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Bi-Weekly Seminar

First Experimental Test of the Incorrect Assumption that Continuous Columnar Pinning Centers Produce the Highest Jc in Superconductors

by: Dr. Alberto Gandini

Date: Friday September 30, 2005

Time: 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Location: Houston Science Center – Building 593 — Room 102

Overview

The improvement of critical current in HTS by optimization of pinning center morphology has been a crucial area for research since the HTS's discovery. In the past decade it has been stated in numerous papers that the optimum pinning centers are provided by continuous columnar defects. This conventional wisdom has never been questioned, nor experimentally tested. This has led several researchers to believe that the highest Jc could only be achieved by means of continuous columnar defects. Columnar defects have been assumed to provide the highest Jc because theoretically they have been shown to maximize the pinning potential. However, pinning theory completely neglects that, as the pinning center density increases, the current percolation is reduced, and hence Jc decreases. Recently we argued that percolation has a larger effect on Jc than previously expected. We proposed that discontinuous pinning centers, which reduce the loss of current percolation, would result in a higher Jc. An experiment was performed to directly compare continuous and discontinuous pinning, using high-energy ions. We now present the surprising experimental result that, in clear contrast with the conventional belief, Jc for discontinuous pinning is much higher than for continuous. This experiment indicates that the superior percolation achieved by discontinuous pinning outweighs the decrease in pinning potential. Record Jc ~ 300 KA/cm2 at 77 K was achieved in melt-textured YBCO for pinning which was 67% discontinuous. This work stands as the first experimental test of the postulate that continuous columnar pinning centers produce the highest Jc, and shows that the postulate is incorrect.

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Bi-Weekly Seminar

Condensed Matter Physics Phenomena in Biological Systems

Prof. John H. Miller

by: Prof. John H. Miller

Date: Thursday April 21, 2005

Time: 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Location: Houston Science Center – Building 593 — Room 102

Overview

This talk will give a brief overview of condensed matter physics phenomena in biological systems, including diamagnetism, quantum tunneling in electron transfer reactions, excitons, charge density waves, and (albeit speculative) proposals of biological superconductivity. I will then, time permitting, discuss some of our own research, such as the production of nonlinear harmonics by enzyme complexes and motor proteins in the plasma membrane and the inner membranes of mitochondria. At low frequencies, we use a high-[Tc] SQUID to directly probe the current response, which greatly reduces electrode polarization effects. We have been studying, in vivo, budding yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisie) and, in vitro, cytochrome c, a mitochondrial membrane protein in the respiratory chain. Also of interest are the electric and magnetic properties of tubulin, which self-assembles to form microtubules in the cytoskeleton.

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Bi-Weekly Seminar

Theory of Inhomogeneous High-Temperature Superconductivty

Prof. W. P. Su

by: Prof. W. P. Su

Date: Thursday January 27, 2005

Time: 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Location: Houston Science Center – Building 593 — Room 102

Overview

Inhomogeneity is a hallmark of the high-temperature superconductors as evidenced by many experiments. A natural interpretation of that can be found in a phenomenological model of d-wave superconductivity, which is an extended Hubbard model with onsite repulsion and nearest-neighbor attractive interaction. This model gives rise to a phase diagram which is strikingly similar to the observed one in the cuprates. A central result of the model is that below a critical doping concentration, the system is unstable with respect to phase separation between the antiferromagetic state and the d-wave superconducting state. Such a state has a vanishing compressibility, therefore it is easily rendered inhomogeneous by the random dopant potentials.

As a microscopic origin of the intersite attractive force, a tight-binding version of the Little’s exciton model has been examined. Quantum Monte Carlo calculations indicate that the purely repulsive interaction between conduction electrons and exciton electrons (electronic polarization) can indeed induce phase separation and superconductivity, where are manifestations of the intersite attractive force.

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Bi-Weekly Seminar

Optical Spectroscopy of Manganese Oxides and Advanced Semiconducting Materials and Structures

Dr. Alexander P. Lytvynchuk

by: Dr. Alexander P. Lytvynchuk

Date: Thursday October 14, 2004

Time: 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Location: Houston Science Center – Building 593 — Room 102

Overview

Part of research activities within the Raman & Infrared Research Lab. of TcSAM will be overviewed. Using ultra-short period InAs/A1Sb superlattices and doped GaAs:N semiconducting films as examples we will demonstrate capabilities of optical pectroscopic techniques in the non-destructive characterization of advanced materials, which yields information on structure stability, spatial distribution and/or depth profile of dopants and impurities, bound and free charge carriers, their mobility, etc. Further, we will examine optical properties, charge and lattice dynamics of La1/2Ca1/2MnO3, which exhibits a rich phase diagram and a variety of intriguing properties due the delicate interplay of spin, charge, lattice, and orbital degrees of freedom. We will present the experimental evidence for the existence of an insulating ground state, development of the charge density waves, and opening of a gap in the excitation spectrum at low temperatures. Phonon and crystal-field excitations of hexagonal HoMnO3 single crystals will also be analyzed with the emphases on the anomalies due to antiferromagnetic Mn ordering.

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Bi-Weekly Seminar

Electromagnetic Properties of Live Cells and Proteins

Prof. John H. Miller

by: Prof. John H. Miller

Date: Friday September 17, 2004

Time: 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Location: Houston Science Center – Building 593 — Room 102

Overview

A live cell in an electrolyte or other extracellular medium has a finite membrane potential due to a net negative charge in the interior, and can thus be polarized by an applied electric field. In addition, most proteins in their native (folded) state are either electrically charged (e.g. actin, which self assembles into 8-nm diameter filaments) or have a net electrical dipole moment (e.g. the a-b tubulin heterodimer). These properties lead to enormous dielectric responses at low frequencies, which can be probed non-invasively at various length scales. We observe changes with time in the dielectric properties of a-b tubulin heterodimers as they self assemble to form 25-nm diameter microtubules, a major component of the cellular cytoskeleton. In addition, we have been studying live cells, and, for example, have observed substantial reductions in the dielectric response of eucaryotic cells when exposed to respiratory inhibitors, such as cyanide, that attack the mitochondria. This is significant because it shows the technique can non-invasively probe the metabolic states of these internal organelles. More recently, our group has found possible evidence for novel phase transitions in the temperature-dependent dielectric responses of some biological systems, such as E. coli.

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