Physicists Claim Creation of a Superconductor at Near-Ambient Conditions : ScienceAlert

Physicists Claim Creation of a Superconductor at Near-Ambient Conditions : ScienceAlert

Few breakthroughs in science would revolutionize technology as much as a material that achieves superconductivity at room temperature, under relatively light pressures.

A team of physicists led by Ranga Dias, a physicist at the University of Rochester in New York now claims they may have cracked it, demonstrating a rare earth metal called lutetium combined with hydrogen and nitrogen can conduct electricity without resistance. at 21 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit) and about 10,000 atmospheres of pressure, the team reports.

If confirmed by other researchers, this would be a major breakthrough in creating devices that do not waste energy in heat when producing a current.

Ideally this could one day be used to create more efficient computers; faster, frictionless maglev trains; superior X-ray technology; and even more powerful nuclear fusion reactors.

“With this material, the dawn of ambient superconductivity and applied technologies has arrived,” the team said in a press release.

The researchers have named the material ‘reddmatter’ because the material changes dramatically from blue to pink as it becomes a superconductor, and later to red as it becomes a non-superconducting metal.

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Before you get too excited, keep in mind that right now this is just a team of researchers sharing their observations. The data have been published in the prestigious journal Nature and are sure to cause a lot of debate. There is already plenty of healthy skepticism out there in the world of physics.

One of the main concerns is that the same group of researchers published claims of a similar discovery of a room-temperature superconductor in 2020. This claim was later retracted by Nature due to problems with reproducibility and questions about the data.

Superconductivity is such a big deal because, typically, when electricity flows through wires—say, going from a power plant to your home, or through the internal circuitry of your smartphone—it encounters friction. This resistance results in energy being lost as heat.

In 1911, researchers identified that there were some materials that lost this resistance under extreme cold and high pressure.

Under these extreme conditions, the quantum behavior of electrons within superconductors is strengthened to allow them to form what are known as Cooper pairs, allowing them to travel through the material with perfect efficiency.

Superconductivity is relatively easy to spot as it also results in a material that repels magnetic flux fields.

But getting materials to superconduct at temperatures and pressure levels that are efficient and practical has been incredibly challenging, and something physicists have spent decades working on.

The team from the University of Rochester claim they have now been able to approach this with reddmatter.

To create the material, the researchers developed a gas mixture consisting of 99 percent hydrogen and 1 percent nitrogen. Left in a lutetium chamber for several days at 200 degrees Celsius, the ingredients reacted to form a wonderful blue compound.

The team then placed the material inside a diamond anvil which is used to put materials under extreme pressure.

As the pressure increased, the material underwent a “noticeable visual transformation”, going from blue to pink as it became superconducting – something the team confirmed by measuring both the magnetic fields around the material and its electrical conductivity.

(Dasenbrock-Gammon et al., Nature, 2023)

As the pressure continued to build, the material turned bright red, passing through its superconducting phase and into a non-superconducting metallic state.

Reddmatter exhibited superconductivity around 21 degrees Celsius (70 Fahrenheit) when compressed to a pressure of 145,000 pounds per square inch.

That’s still roughly 10,000 times the pressure of Earth’s atmosphere, so it would still require the right kinds of structures and equipment to use it practically. It’s unlikely to give your phone superpowers any time soon.

But it’s a significantly lower pressure than other candidates for room-temperature superconductors, which require millions of times atmospheric pressure.

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One of the main issues now is that researchers are not entirely sure of the exact structure of the red matter. This makes it difficult to understand how it is becoming a superconductor.

There are indications that superconductivity may be achieved through a mechanism different from other superconductors, physicists ChangQing Jin and David Ceperley, who were not involved in the research, note in an accompanying Nature New and Views article.

“[The] structural model … suggests that there is relatively little hydrogen present in the authors’ samples compared to similar superconducting compounds,” they write.

“Further research will be needed to confirm this [the] the material is a high-temperature superconductor, and then to understand whether this state is driven by vibrationally induced Cooper pairs—or by an unconventional mechanism that has yet to be discovered.”

Dias admits there is still much to understand about how reddmatter achieves superconductivity. But he remains optimistic that reddmatter is an important first step, even if it doesn’t end up being the best superconductor out there.

“In everyday life we ​​have many different metals that we use for different applications, so we will also need different types of superconducting materials,” Dias said.

“A path to superconducting consumer electronics, power transmission lines, transportation and significant improvements in magnetic insulation for fusion are now a reality,” he added.

“We believe we are now in the modern age of the superconductor.”

The research is published in Nature.

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