Strange metal makes electrons work – reports that researchers at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Florida have discovered a behavior in cuprates that suggests they carry current in a way entirely different from conventional metals such as copper. Also known as “strange metals,” cuprates are high-temperature superconductors that can carry current without any loss of energy at somewhat warmer temperatures than conventional, low-temperature superconductors.

To try to understand how this process works, the researchers put lanthanum strontium copper oxide in a very high magnetic field, applied a current to it, then measured the resistance. They treated the cuprate in its normal state from which superconductivity eventually emerges when the temperature dips low enough. The resulting data revealed that the current cannot travel via conventional quasiparticles, which are the units (or electrons after their environment has been factored in) that carry charge through traditional metals. In other words, the normal metallic state of the cuprate they tested was anything but normal. “This is a new way metals can conduct electricity that is not a bunch of quasiparticles flying around, which is the only well-understood and well-agreed-upon language so far,” said team leader Arkady Shekhter in a media statement.