Have you ever heard of purple bronze? Also known as purple lithium molybdenum bronze, this material has the unprecedented ability to change between electrical states, becoming an insulator or a conductor depending on small changes in physical conditions.
In addition to the name of this substance sounding like a huge contradiction in terms, this compound also does not contain any of the molecules that make up bronze – copper, tin and zinc. In fact, its chemical formula is Li0.9Month6Hey17It is a combination of elements that could be very important for the era of quantum data processing to create new things.
The importance of quantity
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Although it was already interesting to scientists because of its solid state, which features three-dimensional crystals that behave like a one-dimensional metal, purple bronze is also expected to attract more interest after discovering how easily its electrical properties can be changed.
Near absolute zero, this material is mostly electrically conductive, causing no resistance to the flow of electricity. While this is something a wide range of materials can do as well, purple bronze has the advantage of switching from superconducting to being a strong insulator with little change in temperature or exposure to light.
This electrical malleability would make this material absolutely ideal for quantum computing, which relies largely on the ability to flip many “chemical switches” easily. Therefore, this means that this material has the necessary qualities to cooperate with this type of process.
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In a study published in the journal Science, researchers at the University of Bristol took a closer look at the properties of purple bronze. As the data show, purple bronze behaves like a diode in the absence of a magnetic field. This allows it to conduct an electrical current in one direction and not in another.
In general, the presence of magnetic fields tends to complicate matters, but not in this case. The study team found that in a fairly strong magnetic field, the conductivity of purple bronze becomes linearly related to temperature until superconductivity begins.
“No coherent explanation was found for this puzzling behavior, and the data remained dormant and unpublished for the next seven years. “A gap like this is unusual in quantum research, although it was not caused by a lack of statistics,” study author Nigel Hussey said in a statement. “.
Researchers have recently discovered the most notable feature of this material: under the right conditions, there is an effective chance it can act as both a superconductor and an insulator at the same time, with the two opposing states separated by a thin barrier. So, it will be very easy to switch from one to the other and vice versa. According to the researchers, the next steps of the research should explore the commonalities and differences between each phase of this substance, which could reveal the reasons for this strange behavior.
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