There are some copper based compounds that superconductor (or transmit electricity) without resistance without having to be cooled to ridiculously low temperatures. So far, the Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer theory of superconductivity has not been able to explain their outliers but newer findings are suggesting that this theory does in fact apply to these materials as well.

For a superconductor to work it needs to be chilled to temperatures that come close to sub-zero levels (-273.15 degrees Celsius), however there are copper based superconductors that work just fine at temperatures greater than liquid nitrogen’s boiling point which is around -196 degrees Celsius. If scientists can find a superconductor that operates at even greater temperatures then there could potentially be a huge amount of power saving along with the need for developing new technologies going down. In order to find such a superconductor, scientists need to develop a deeper understanding of how these materials work.

Many superconductors produce swirling electric current vortices when placed in a magnetic field, which is something that has already been defined in the Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer theory. When a copper based superconductor is placed in a magnetic field, it does not produce these vortices, this has led scientists to believe that the way in which these materials conduct differs from normal superconductors. Fortunately, this mystery about copper based superconductors (also called cuprates) is beginning to unravel thanks to physicists in the University of Geneva who have recently studied the formation of such vortices in cuprates consisting of barium, yttrium, oxygen, and copper.

These vortices can be scanned with tunneling microscopes to collect data about the vortex, when physicists probed the vortices produced by cuprates they noted that the probe was measuring two contributions in the current being produced. One came from the superconducting electrons present and the other came from the non-superconducting electrons which was spread across the material’s surface, this contribution masked the signatures that were being produced by the vortices.

The non-superconducting contribution had kept the vortices from showing, making it seem like that high-temperature cuprates did not conform to the standard superconductivity theory. These results have helped scientists develop a far better understanding of cuprates, but there is still a lot about these materials that needs to be figured out before scientists can make further groundbreaking advancements in this field.