Student finds way to boost conductivity 400x totally by accidentSubmitted by Bob-45 on Sun, 11/17/2013 - 16:49
Thu, 14 Nov 2013 15:20 CST
Like a modern Henri Becquerel, Washington State University doctoral student Marianne Tarun's discovery came quite by accident. Her simple lab error has uncovered a new way to boost electrical conductivity of a crystal by 40,000 percent, simply by exposing it to light.
Tarun had accidentally left a sample of strontium titanate out on a counter before testing the crystal's conductivity and discovering the phenomenon. Her team suspects that photons knock loose electrons which boost the material's conductivity. Her follow up tests confirmed the effect and found that as little as 10 minutes of light exposure could propagate the effect for days on end.
Known as persistent photoconductivity, it's nowhere near the level of electrical throughput of what super-conducting materials can achieve. However, it does hold a great deal of practical potential. For one, the effect works at room temperature unlike superconductors which only function at a fraction of a degree from absolute zero.