Superconductivity at Dawn of the Iron Age
Superconductivity at Dawn of the Iron Age Superconductivity is a stunning quantum phenomenon and among the deepest paradigms in all of physics. From fundamental theories of the universe to strange goings-on in exotic materials to medical imaging and cell phones, its conceptual and practical dimensions span a reach as wide as anything in science. Twenty-odd years ago, the discovery of copper oxides ushered in a new era of high-temperature superconductivity, and the joyous exuberance that followed - with physicists throwing everything from fancy gauge theories to synchrotron radiation into its kitchen sink - only recently began to show any signs of waning. In the spring of 2008, as if on cue, a new family of iron pnictide high-temperature superconductors burst on the scene, hinting at an alternative route to room-temperature superconductivity and all of its momentous consequences. Fueled by genuine excitement - and a bit of hype - the iron-based superconductivity turned into a science blockbuster of 2009. I will present a pedagogical review of this new field, contrast the physics of iron- and copper-based systems, and speculate on the microscopic origins of the two types of high-temperature superconductivity.
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