Latest Research on High Temperature Superconductors Focus of Two Lawrence University Lectures

Physicist Laura Greene, a leading experimentalist in the physics of novel materials, discusses her research on high temperature superconductors in a pair of lectures at Lawrence University.

Greene, the Swanlund Professor of Physics at the University of Illinois’ Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory, presents “High Temperature Superconductors: From Broken Symmetries to Cell Phones” Monday, May 22 at 7:30 p.m. in Youngchild Hall, Room 121. On Tuesday, May 23, Greene will deliver a more advanced follow-up talk entitled “High Temperature Superconductors: Playgrounds for Broken Symmetries,” at 11:10 a.m. in Youngchild Hall, Room 115. Both presentations are free and open to the public.

Superconductivity, the ability of certain materials to conduct electricity without any loss of energy, was first discovered in 1911. To obtain superconductivity, however, materials needed to be cooled to extremely low temperatures, as cold as four degrees above absolute zero. In the mid-1980s, a scientific breakthrough resulted in a new class of superconducting materials that, while still extremely cold, could operate in more accessible environments (produced by the use of more abundant liquid nitrogen rather than liquid helium) of approximately 25 degrees above absolute zero.

Greene will discuss her research on the “mechanisms” that allow superconductivity to occur at the relatively higher temperatures, specifically the way these new materials break certain fundamental symmetries of nature by enabling electrons to be paired or bound together rather than repelling each other as they typically do. She also will address the possibilities of practical applications for superconductors, from high-speed switching devices to computers based on superconducting junction technology.

Elected a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences last month, Greene began her career as a researcher for Bell Laboratories, where she studied thin-film growth and tunneling of metallic multilayers, superconductor-semiconductor hybrid structures and high-temperature superconductors. A Fellow of the Amerian Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Greene joined the faculty at the University of Illinois in 1992.

She earned a bachelor and master’s degree from Ohio State University and her Ph. D. in physics from Cornell University.