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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/K027255/1
Title: New Directions in Molecular Superconductivity
Principal Investigator: Prassides, Professor K
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Jozef Stefan Institute Nagoya University University of Tokyo
Wigner Research Centre for Physics
Department: Chemistry
Organisation: Durham, University of
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 07 October 2013 Ends: 30 September 2014 Value (£): 401,448
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Condensed Matter Physics Materials Characterisation
Materials Synthesis & Growth
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
26 Feb 2013 EPSRC Physical Sciences Materials - February 2013 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The design of superconducting materials in order to achieve higher transition temperatures (Tc) to the zero-resistance state has been recognised by recent international and national reviews as at the extreme forefront of current challenges in condensed matter science with potential for transforming existing and enabling new technologies of tremendous economic and societal benefits in energy and healthcare. Achieving the zero-resistance state requires close control of the interactions of electrons with each other (known as electron correlation) and with lattice vibrations (phonons). This project addresses these challenges by building on EPSRC-supported collaborative work by the project team, which has shown that high Tc superconductivity, defined both in terms of transition temperature and the key role played by electronic correlations, is accessible in molecular systems. In the fullerene-based molecular superconductors, superconductivity occurs in competition with electronic ground states resulting from a fine balance between electron correlations and electron-phonon coupling in an electronic phase diagram strikingly similar to that of the atom-based copper oxide high Tc superconductors, where correlation plays a key role. A second molecular superconductor family with transition temperatures over 30 K, based on metal intercalation into aromatic hydrocarbons, has also been reported. It is therefore timely to optimise and understand superconducting materials made from molecules arranged in regular solid structures.

The scope of synthetic chemistry to tailor molecular electronic and geometric structure makes the development of molecular superconducting systems important, because this chemical control of the fundamental building units of a superconductor is not possible in atom-based systems. The molecular systems are the only current candidates for the important target of isotropic correlated electron superconductivity. We will exploit these opportunities by integration of new chemistry with new physical understanding, exemplified by revealing how changes in molecular-level orbital degeneracy driven by chemical control of molecular charge and overlap direct the electronic structure of an extended solid. We will develop the new chemistry of the molecular solid state that will be needed for this level of electronic structure control, in particular mastering the chemistry of metal intercalation into hydrocarbons. This new materials chemistry will include the use of new building blocks (such as endohedral metallofullerenes) and will harness the assimilation of defects to access new molecular packings, motivated by our discovery that different packings of the same molecular unit give different Tc and distinct electronic properties. Further structural control will be exercised by binding small molecules to the cations intercalated into the molecular lattices. The synthesis of metal-intercalated solids based on multiple molecular components will be undertaken to permit detailed optimisation of the electronic structure. We will thus specifically exploit the molecular system advantages of isotropy, packing and molecular-level electronic structure control by developing the new chemistry of the molecular solid state needed to establish the new electronic ground states.

Physical understanding of the structural and chemical origins of the new electronic states is essential to identify the factors controlling the electron pairing in the superconductors. This understanding will emerge from an integrated investigation of the insulator-metal-superconductor competition, spanning thermodynamic, spectroscopic and electronic property measurements closely linked to comprehensive structural work in order to produce the structure-composition-property relationships required for the design of next generation systems. The project benefits from an international multidisciplinary collaborative team to ensure all relevant techniques are deployed.

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