A new discovery in high-temperature superconductivity could help in improving the power distribution in national electrical grids, a study says.

Researchers led by physicists in the University of Minnesota's College of Science and Engineering have discovered a novel type of magnetic wave involving oxygen atoms. High-temperature superconductivity is the most studied scientific topics in history. University of Minnesota scientists led a team that included members in Germany, France and China.

"Following the Nobel-Prize winning discovery of high-temperature superconductivity in complex copper-oxide materials in the mid-1980s, the effort to understand this phenomenon has been one of the major scientific challenges in the field of physics for the past quarter century, with more than 100,000 publications on the topic," Martin Greven, an associate professor in the university's School of Physics and Astronomy."

"While the commercialization of these complex copper-oxide materials, in the form of superior electric wires, has recently begun, physicists have not yet been able to solve the mystery of why these exotic materials are superconducting in the first place. The materials' unusual magnetism is often argued to be responsible for their superconductivity,"Greven added.

"We believe that our discovery sheds new light on this hotly debated subject of superconductivity," Greven said.

The study is being reported in the journal Nature.