Las Vegas — That’s a bold claim: the quest to make a superconductor that works under practical conditions finally done, says a team of researchers. But controversy has dogged the team’s earlier claim of record-breaking superconductivity, suggesting the new result will face extreme scrutiny.
Many materials become superconductors, capable of transmitting electricity without much resistance, provided they are cooled to very low temperatures. Some superconductors work under hot conditions, but they must be squeezed to crushing pressures, which means they are also impractical to use.
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Now researchers are saying they have created a superconductor that works at room temperature and relatively low pressure. A superconductor that works under such modest conditions could usher in a new era of high-efficiency machines, supersensitive instrumentation and revolutionary electronics.
“This is the beginning of a new type of material that is useful for practical applications,” said Ranga Dias, a physicist at the University of Rochester in New York, at the March 7 meeting of the American Physical Society.
The team reported new results with a material made of hydrogen, nitrogen and lutetium. Dias and colleagues blended the elements together in a device known as a diamond anvil cell. They then measured the change in pressure and the resistance of the compound to electric current.
At higher temperatures of around 294 Kelvin (21°C or 70°F), the material begins to lose any resistance to electric current. This still required a pressure of 10 kilobars, which is about 10,000 times the pressure of our atmosphere. But this is very small compared to the millions of atmospheres of pressure typically required for superconductors that operate near room temperature. If confirmed, this makes the material more promising for real-world applications.
The research likely to face significant skepticism over the team’s earlier publication Claim to have discovered superconductivity In carbonic sulfur hydride at 15 °C (Sn: 10/14/20, on editors Nature took that paper backDias and colleagues objected, citing irregularities in the researchers’ handling of the data, which undermined the editors’ confidence in the claims (Sn: 10/3/22,