SPAHN: Superconducting metal-intercalated Poly-Aromatic HydrocarboN

Research project selected under the 2013 call for proposals

Principal Investigator :

Baptiste Vignolle (

Type of project : Collaborative Project

Partner team(s) :



Date (start/end) : 2014 - 2017


Target molecules (red) giving rise to superconductivity upon metal intercalation that are studied within this project.


Superconductivity (SC) offers the ultimate solution for the energy-saving technologies because this state of matter exhibits a zero resistance (below a material specific critical temperature Tc), enabling electrical transport without energy dissipation. In the context of the increasing demand for the energy delivery combined with the necessity to reduce the Green House Gas emission worldwide, SC may not only be the key ingredient for providing our society with energy more efficiently but can also be considered as a unique opportunity to overcome our increasing energetic needs. Although many commercially available superconductivity-based devices have been developed over the recent years, more efficient transport/storage of electricity is needed for generating high magnetic fields (MRI, magnets at LHC, motors), in modern transportation (magnetic levitation) and for fabrication of high speed computers with reduced electrical consumption [1]. Also, devices with unprecedented sensitivity to magnetic field can be produced using the superconducting technologies (magnetometer for medical and geological activities). However, to achieve real technological and societal breakthroughs superconductors with better characteristics are needed. Thus, materials with higher critical temperatures, but more importantly, superconductors that are easier to process and with a reduced impact on the environment are particularly sought for.

In 2010, a new breakthrough in the field of superconductivity came along with the discovery of superconductivity at 18 K in K3-picene [2], a particularly interesting molecular superconductor composed of PolyAromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) molecules – containing only carbon and hydrogen atoms doped with alkaline atoms. During the following year, three other metal doped PAHs have been reported to become superconducting, with critical temperatures ranging from 4 K for K3-phenanthrene [3] to 15 K for K3-coronene [4] and up to 33 K for K3-dibenzopentacene [5]. These molecular solids represent a new paradigm for the study of superconductivity and its interplay with other (quantum) state of matter.

This project is focused on the study of this new family of organic superconductors by monitoring each step of the process. Our synergetic approach will combine theoretical calculations at the single molecule level, innovative organic synthesis of PAH molecules, metal intercalation, single crystal growth and characterization, as well as the measurements of the electronic properties in order to shed light on the mechanism responsible for superconductivity in this group of materials. More precisely, we will study both the superconducting and the normal state addressing the following questions: How conventional are these SCs? Are there any competing phases at play? What is the role of electronic correlations and of quantum criticality?

Our overall objectives are to find new superconducting compounds with higher Tc, to rationalize the single molecule electronic properties for the occurrence of superconductivity, to perform a systematic study of the physical properties within a given family of compounds, and to establish connections between the different members of the family.

[1]       S. Nishijima et al., Supercond. Sci. Tehcnol 26, 113001 (2013).

[2]       R. Mitsuhashi et al., Nature 464, 76 (2010).

[3]       X.F. Wang et al., Nature Comm. 2, 507 (2011).
[4]       Y. Kubozono et al., Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 13, 16476 (2011).
[5]       M. Xue et al., Sci. Rep. 2, 389 (2012).



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