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Iron in the Mix

Scientists look for the secret behind high-temperature superconductors

Physicist Johnpierre Paglione works in a kitchen of sorts: He precisely blends ingredients, heats his mixtures to just the right temperature and cools them to get the perfect product. But rather than only edible ingredients, his recipes call for toxic chemicals, such as arsenic, and metals — especially iron. His ovens, which line the shelves of his lab at the University of Maryland in College Park, reach 1,700Ë Celsius before he carefully cools his concoctions over days or weeks. When the timer finally dings, out pops a silvery-black pebble with one flat, shiny surface.

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