Researchers at Tokyo Tech have reported superconductivity in two kinds of higher titanium oxides prepared in the form of ultrathin films. With a thickness of around 120 nanometers, these materials reveal properties that are only just beginning to be explored.

Many of us are familiar with titanium dioxide (TiO2), a whitener commonly used in sunscreens and paints such as the white lines seen on tennis courts. Less well known are other higher titanium oxides – those with a higher number of titanium and oxygen atoms than TiO – that are now the subject of intensifying research due to their potential use in next-generation electronic devices.

Kohei Yoshimatsu, lead author of the paper published in Scientific Reports said, “We succeeded in growing thin films of Ti4O7 and γ-Ti3O5 for the first time.”

The crystalline structures of the two titanium oxides. A schematic representation of Ti4O7 (a) and γ-Ti3O5 (b). Image Credit: Tokyo Institute of Technology. Click image for the largest view.

Until now, the two materials had only been studied in bulk form, in which they behave as insulators – the opposite of conductors. The formation of electrically conductive thin films is therefore seen as a big advance for fundamental physics.

The researchers found that the superconducting transition temperature reached 3.0 K for Ti4O7 and 7.1 K (-447º F) for γ-Ti3O5. Achieving 7.1 K even in simple metal oxides is “an amazing result,” said Yoshimatsu, as “it represents one of the highest known among these oxides.”

The thin films are epitaxial, meaning that they have a well-aligned crystalline structure.

Yoshimatsu explained, “They are extremely difficult to grow. In our study, instead of using conventional TiO2 as the starting material, we chose to begin with the slightly more reduced Ti2O3.”

Then, under precisely controlled atmospheric conditions, the Ti4O7 and γ-Ti3O5 films were grown layer by layer upon sapphire substrates in a process called pulsed-laser deposition.

To verify the crystalline structures of the films, the team collaborated with researchers at the National Institute for Materials Science who used characterization techniques such as X-ray diffraction using synchrotron radiation at SPring-8, one of the world’s largest facilities of its kind situated in Hyogo Prefecture, western Japan.

So far no one knows exactly how superconductivity arises in these titanium oxides. The irregular (or what is known as non-stoichiometric) arrangement of oxygen atoms is thought to play an important factor. This arrangement introduces oxygen vacancies that are not stable in bulk form. By creating just enough conductive electrons, the oxygen vacancies may help induce superconductivity.

Yoshimatsu said that more work will be needed to examine the underlying mechanisms. As titanium oxides are cheap and relatively simple compounds made of only two kinds of elements adding that they are attractive for further research.

In addition, he said that the study may advance development of Josephson junctions that could in the future be used to build new kinds of electronic circuits and, ultimately, faster computers.

It is very encouraging to see such an easy to obtain and lost cost material have a superconductivity property. It is also a bit of an surprise to be working at such low temperatures. This is still quite promising as the ‘how’ of superconductivity remains not discovered. Perhaps there is more useful clues in the answer to that question. Good work from insightful thinking over in Japan.


6 Comments so far

  1. Waste Sorting Machine on October 8, 2017 10:04 PM

    How wonderful this discovery is. Hoping more and more great discoveries can be found.

  2. Plastic to fuel machine on October 9, 2017 8:33 PM

    It is very encouraging to see such an easy to obtain and lost cost material have a superconductivity property.

  3. Asphalt mixing plant on October 11, 2017 1:02 AM

    Great discovery! More discoveries can be used in the daily life.

  4. Garbage recycling plant cost on October 15, 2017 10:38 PM

    The new discovery is great. Thanks for sharing.

  5. charcoal making on October 15, 2017 10:49 PM

    This is a really great post. I can learn a lot. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Small asphalt plant on October 16, 2017 2:07 AM

    I hope that there will be more and more discoveries to our new world.

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