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Superconductor at room temperature? Yes, but not so fast …



There is good news and there is bad news in what we are about to tell you. The good news is that a team of physicists has found a mixture of hydrogen, carbon and sulfur that exhibits superconductivity at 59F. Exciting, right? The bad news is that it only works when squeezed between two diamonds at pressures close to that of the Earth’s core. In perspective, the bottom of the Mariana trench is about 1,000 atmospheres, while the superconductor needs 2.6 million atmospheres of pressure.

Sure, 59F is a bit cold, but it’s easy to imagine chilling something that much if superconductivity could be exploited. We continuously cool the CPUs. However, unless there is a twist that allows the material to function under at least reasonable pressures, this won̵

7;t change much outside of a lab.

The maximum temperature of superconductors has been increasing for some years. New theories about the role hydrogen can play and computer models could identify promising compounds that both are contributing to these new advances. For example, scientists found that lanthanum hydride could superconduct between -13F and 8F, but at a pressure of 1.8 million atmospheres.

You can read more technical information on the Dias Group website. There is also an image of the type of diamond anvil used in these experiments on that site, and you can see it above.

Scientists still don’t fully understand why this compound is superconducting at the right temperature and pressure. Work is underway to identify the structure of the material and the exact chemical formula.

It wasn’t that long ago that even liquid nitrogen temperature superconductors were unheard of, but now you can make them yourself if you have some laboratory skills. You have been able to do this since at least 2018.

Photo credit: J. Adam Fenster, University of Rochester


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