What you should know about the discovery of new hyperconductors

For more than a century, scientists have sought to obtain The holy grail of materials: a room-temperature superconductora material that could carry electric charges without resistance, which would revolutionize the energy landscape as we know it.

This week, a team from the University of Rochester claims to have found such material, despite skepticism from some members of the scientific community. The new search published in nature. Here’s what you should know about the flag.

What is a superconductor at room temperature?

Developing room-temperature superconductors is a lofty goal in physics, there Find out what the hell dark matter is And What is responsible for the acceleration of the expansion of the universe. Superconductors transmit electric currents without resistance, which means no energy loss as electricity is sent from point A to point B. But today’s superconductors require extremely cold temperatures and high pressures to operate, making them impractical anywhere outside private laboratories.

If they could operate at room temperature, superconducting materials would not be migrated to the world of experiments and could be integrated into the world’s energy infrastructure.

But since the discovery of superconductivity in 1911, science has been unable to decipher room temperature superconductivity. Physicists have poked and prodded superconductors of various kinds –Refrigerated lanthanum hydride And Hydrogen sulfide with a sulfur smell, for example – to no avail. These materials are superconducting, but only at absurd temperatures and pressures that would be impractical in real-world electronics.

The search for the perfect room-temperature superconductor has materials scientists, engineers, and physicists flipping through various hydrides, searching for one that doesn’t require such challenging conditions to work its zero-resistance magic.

What did the University of Rochester team achieve?

The newest compound on the superconducting chopping block is lutetium hydride, which scientists at the University of Rochester found transforms into a superconductor at 69 degrees Fahrenheit at 10 kilobars (145,000 psi) of pressure. For reference, the pressure at sea level is about 15 psi, while it’s about 16,000 psi at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, According to NOAA.

Obviously, 145,000 psi is still a file a lot of pressure. But it’s two orders of magnitude less than previously required to induce superconductivity in the team’s lab, according to the University of Rochester. launch.

A one-millimeter sample of bright blue cobalt lutetium hydride.

According to Ranga Dias, a mechanical engineer at the University of Rochester who made the discovery in his lab, “We think we’re now in the era of modern superconductivity.”

But other members of Dias’ field are skeptical. Paper 2020 published in Nature by a team including Dias, claiming to achieve room-temperature superconductivity in carbonic-sulfur hydride, and has received several updates regarding the dates and data contained therein. Then, in The article ‘Emerging Issues’ was published in Nature in August 2021Two physicists unaffiliated with Dias’ paper disputed the claims, postulating that the phenomena associated with superconductivity weren’t actually related to the vaunted state of matter.

In September 2022, Dias’ team’s original paper was withdrawn. But the new paper has crossed its hurdles (enough to get it published, at least, but also the now-retracted work).

According to The New York TimesIn an earlier misstep, Dias embeds word-for-word language from another scholar’s treatise into his own, an event that Dias recounts in forgotten citations.

In the latest experiment, the team collected a gaseous mixture of 99% hydrogen and 1% nitrogen and placed the gas in a chamber containing lutetium, an extremely rare earth metal. They let the gas and metal react for a few days at 392 Fahrenheit. The resulting compound glowed blue.

They pressed this compound into a diamond cell (The hardest metal, making it a regular feature in experiments where you want to squeeze, squeeze, or squeeze out the waste from something). When pressed between the diamonds, the compound made in Dias’ lab changed from blue to a bright reddish-pink. It has become superconductive.

If the result of the new experiment can be reproduced by other teams, it could be an exciting moment in the hunt for unobtainium in materials science: a true game-changer for electricity.

But for now, the search for the Holy Grail continues. How close is the materials science community to finding an explanation for it? But charging such a superconductor wouldn’t happen without resistance.

More: The search for the most elusive materials in physics

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