Editorial Feature

Iron Based Superconductors - The New Iron Age

Dmitirii Shulgov / Shutterstock

Back in 2008, a surprising discovery was made and it revealed that iron-based materials have a high-temperature superconductivity. The uncovering of this property astounded scientists, as it had long been believed that iron hindered superconductivity due to competition between the dynamic formation of electron pairs and the static ordering of electron spins.

High Temperature Superconductors

Traditional high temperature superconductors are based on copper, and research into this material and its properties have been an intense point of interest over the last two decades since their discovery. While the research has been fruitful, there have been many experimentally relevant problems left unsolved, mostly those relating to surpassing the superconducting critical temperature. The discovery of iron as a high-temperature superconductor has opened the door to re-exploring these problems with new material with different superconducting dynamics.

Since this critical discovery, an explosion of studies worldwide has taken place in order to explore the fundamental mechanisms of iron as a high temperature superconductor, in order to gain an understanding of how it works and ultimately, what its real world applications may be. Given that iron has a relatively high critical temperature as well as high field properties, a vast amount of studies have been conducted which focus on uncovering the potential applications of iron-based materials used as superconductors.

The New Iron Age

This revelation has led to what has been coined ‘the new iron age’, due to the elevated interest in research into iron leading to rapid developments into the use of it as a superconductor. Much time and money is currently being invested in projects that dive into the workings of iron as a superconductor. For example, a team at Cornell University have built a custom Spectroscopic Imaging Scanning Tunneling Microscope in order to use it to investigate electron-activity within iron-based superconductors, to gain an understanding of how they work.

One key focus of this research is to figure out a way to get the superconductor to work at room temperature. Currently, the research is very expensive and energy consuming, as conditions to study the materials must be lower than -100 degrees Celsius. This also brings the problem that superconductors are looked on as a way to transmit electricity in order to save on energy, but the cooling they require would use up more energy than it would be saving, making it not economically viable.

In addition, there are other questions which remain unanswered. Scientists know that the total spin of the Fe ion is either 1 or 2 because it has six electrons in the 3d orbitals.  However, the SDW magnetic moment has been observed not to match up using a strong correlation model. There needs to be a new model developed to understand the magnetism of iron superconductors.

Spin-Density Wave and Superconductivity

Further to this, researchers are looking to understand whether the spin-density wave and superconductivity compete with one another, or if they coexist. They are also looking to find out whether, as in the cuprates (copper-based superconductors), a pseudogap phase exists above the superconducting state of these materials. Answering these questions will allow scientists to understand not only iron-based superconductors, but it will also reveal the relationship between kinetic energy and interaction energy in condensed-matter physics in general and this is what will propel the new Iron Age.

The exploration will continue into the future, as scientists strive to understand the full capabilities of iron as a superconductor. As we have seen it may hold the key to many important problems, but before then, scientists must work hard to research several areas in particular which are still without a full understanding.


Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Sarah Moore

Written by

Sarah Moore

After studying Psychology and then Neuroscience, Sarah quickly found her enjoyment for researching and writing research papers; turning to a passion to connect ideas with people through writing.


Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Moore, Sarah. (2019, October 16). Iron Based Superconductors - The New Iron Age. AZoM. Retrieved on March 20, 2023 from https://www.azom.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=18552.

  • MLA

    Moore, Sarah. "Iron Based Superconductors - The New Iron Age". AZoM. 20 March 2023. <https://www.azom.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=18552>.

  • Chicago

    Moore, Sarah. "Iron Based Superconductors - The New Iron Age". AZoM. https://www.azom.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=18552. (accessed March 20, 2023).

  • Harvard

    Moore, Sarah. 2019. Iron Based Superconductors - The New Iron Age. AZoM, viewed 20 March 2023, https://www.azom.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=18552.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you have a review, update or anything you would like to add to this article?

Leave your feedback
Your comment type