Scientists tout superconductor that works at room temperature. And That Changes Everything – Science & Health

These superconductors could be used to save energy, increase the power of technological devices or move trains that “float”. The scientific community is excited but skeptical about the new discovery.

The technological world could be completely changed after a “simple” discovery: a superconductor that works at room temperature. The energy savings that this discovery can create represent a gain of billions of euros in energy wasted every day to cool these devices. In addition, superconductors that work at room temperature can be used to power electric cars or charge your cell phone faster. But there is a long way to go before superconductors become part of our everyday lives, and even this new discovery is shrouded in doubt about its reliability.


It all starts with the way electricity “flows”: through the wires through which it is transmitted, it encounters resistance, losing power in the form of heat. But several decades ago, physicists discovered what they called “superconducting materials” that eliminated this resistance. However, to achieve this effect, the materials had to be kept at very low temperatures, preventing their use in everyday life. So he started a search to find superconductors that work at room temperature.

Currently, the most efficient electricity grids lose at least 5% of their energy in the transmission process. Managing to avoid this loss can save millions of euros and even help fight climate change. There are other practical applications for these superconductors, such as driving magnetic trains in suspension systems (where there is no contact between the vehicle and the rails), more efficient computers, better X-ray technologies or even more powerful nuclear fusion reactors.

The countless possibilities have made this research a priority for the scientific community, but it’s not the first time news has surfaced that a superconducting material has been “found.” In 2020, the same team published a paper promising material with these effects. However, the essay caused controversy and was removed.

According to the New York Times, the new superconductor proposed by the scientific team is made of lutetium – a rare earth metal -, hydrogen and nitrogen. This alloy still has to go through a complex compression process (about 10 times greater than that felt in the deepest ocean trenches) before it acquires its “superconducting” properties.

At a meeting of the American Physical Society in Las Vegas, Ranga P. Dias, a professor of mechanical engineering and physics at the University of Rochester in New York, said: “We are looking at a new kind of material that will be useful on a practical level.” The audience applauded, but there is still some trepidation about the discovery.

The conflict
The scientific community’s apprehension is fueled by the previous test that ended up being removed. In 2020, suspicions arose that scientists had fabricated data used in the then-publicized trial, and Dias was accused of failing to facilitate access to the data for independent analyses. Your job ended up being removed from Nature by the journal’s content editors, despite the group’s protests. It was heard by the American newspaper The New York Times, James Hamlin, a professor of physics at the University of Florida, said he lost confidence in the discoveries coming from this group. Despite this alleged discredit, the paper was peer-reviewed and passed, earning a place in the journal.

The history of superconductors
The first superconductor was discovered by the team of Dutch physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes in 1911. The scientist managed to create a way for electricity to flow without resistance in a material without magnetic fields.

But to achieve this superconductivity, temperature conditions close to absolute zero (ie -273.15 °C) were required. Many years later, already in the 80s, a new superconductor was discovered that lowered the necessary temperature, and in the last decade Mikhail Eremets discovered a superconductor that worked functionally at -23ºC.

In 2020, Dias’ team created a superconductor in a hydrogen carbonate compound that worked at an ambient temperature of 15ºC.

The practical results are still far away
The discovery of superconductors at room temperature is a relative breakthrough, but the truth is that the pressure levels required for their operation are still very high.

Superconnectivity is achieved when the material is compressed to a pressure of 10,000 kilograms per square centimeter. These conditions are possible only in highly processed equipment. Reducing the necessary pressure will be the next scientific challenge on the road to finding superconductors.

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