LAS VEGAS – It’s a bold claim: The quest to create a superconductor operating under practical conditions has finally been fulfilled, says a team of researchers. Controversy, however, followed the team’s previous record-breaking statement of superconductivity, suggesting that the new event would meet extreme scrutiny.
Many materials become superconductors, able to transmit electricity with no resistance as long as they are cooled to very low temperatures. A few superconductors work under hotter conditions, but they have to be pressed to crushing pressures, which are also impossible to use.
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Now researchers say they have created a superconductor that works at room temperature and relatively low pressure. A superconductor that works under common conditions could herald a new era of high-efficiency machines, supersensitive instruments and revolutionary electronics.
“This is the beginning of a new type of material that is useful for practical applications,” Ranga Dias, a physicist at the University of New York, said on April 7 at the American Physical Society meeting.
The team reported a new issue with the matter of hydrogen, nitrogen and iron. Dias and colleagues mixed the elements together in a device called a diamond-encrusted cell. They then varied the pressure and measured the resistance to electrical flow in the mixture.
At temperatures as high as about 294 kelvins (21° Celsius or 70° Fahrenheit), the material seemed to lose its resistance to electrical flow. It still required pressures of 10 kilobars, which is about 10,000 times the pressure of our atmosphere. But this is far less than the tens of millions of atmospheres of pressure typically required for superconductors that operate near room temperature. If confirmed, the material has much more promising real-world applications.
The research was likely to be met with significant skepticism, partly because of the firestorm over the previous team’s publication, which claimed to have discovered the superconductivity of sulfur dioxide at 15°C.SN: 10/14/20). editors at nature retracted that paper, over the objection of Dias and coauthors, citing irregularities in investigative data handling that undermined the editors’ confidence in the claims.SN: 10/3/22).
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