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Superconducting Ink with Ultra-Thin Properties Could Enable Quantum Computing

A render of a quantum computer

Shutterstock / Bartlomiej K. Wroblewski Source: Shutterstock

A remarkable superconducting ink has been developed, capable of being printed on surfaces in an ultra-thin layer, which holds great promise for building circuits in quantum computers. This ink, made of tungsten disulfide, stands out for its high stability and simplicity in production, making it ideal for future applications.

Superconductivity refers to a material’s ability to conduct electricity with zero resistance, making it incredibly efficient for energy transmission. Superconducting materials also possess unique magnetic properties, but creating them has been challenging, as they tend to degrade when exposed to air or temperatures far from absolute zero.

Researchers at Princeton University, namely Xiaoyu Song and Leslie Schoop along with their team, facilitated the production of the tungsten disulfide ink using a process called chemical exfoliation. They worked with a material consisting of alternating layers of tungsten disulfide and potassium. By subjecting the layered material to diluted sulphuric acid, the researchers selectively dissolved the potassium, leaving behind only thin layers of tungsten disulfide, much like how a crepe cake loses its filling when immersed in water.

After rinsing away the acid and potassium residue, the researchers obtained a solution containing suspended tungsten layers in water. This solution could then be printed onto various substrates, such as glass, plastic, or silicon, forming a layer of tungsten disulfide that is as thin as a single molecule.

The printed pattern demonstrated an impressive level of stability under ambient conditions, without the need for protective coatings or containers, for a minimum of 30 days. Additionally, when the ink was cooled to temperatures below 7.3 kelvin (-266°C), even after being exposed to the open air, it became superconductive. Leslie Schoop explains, “You could carry it around or install it at room temperature, and then you just have to freeze it. However, you’d need liquid helium for superconductivity, not your home freezer unfortunately.”

This newly developed process is much simpler compared to previous methods used for superconducting inks, which required protective layers to prevent degradation over time. This simplicity makes industrial production of this ink considerably easier. However, due to its temperature requirements, there are limitations to its potential applications. Schoop suggests, “It could still be practical in things that are already cooled down, like in quantum computers or MRI machines where you already cool down your systems a lot.” Furthermore, the researchers aim to enhance this method in the future to create inks that exhibit superconductivity at higher temperatures.

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