Physicists Claim Creation of Material With Near Ambient Superconductivity

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

Physicists Claim Creation of Material With Near Ambient Superconductivity

Few scientific discoveries would have the same impact on technology as a material that achieves ambient superconductivity at room temperature and under relatively mild pressures.

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

If confirmed by other researchers, this would be a significant step forward in the development of devices that do not waste energy on heat when producing a current.

In an ideal world, this could be used to develop more efficient computers, faster, frictionless maglev trains, superior X-ray technology, and even more powerful nuclear fusion reactors. “The dawn of ambient superconductivity and applied technologies has arrived with this material,” the team said in a press release.

The material has been dubbed ‘reddmatter’ by the researchers due to its dramatic change from blue to pink as it becomes superconductive, and then to red as it becomes a non-superconductive metal.

This team of researchers has published their own observations of a superconductor breakthrough at room temperature. The data has been published in the prestigious journal Nature, and is sure to draw plenty of debate.

One of the main concerns is that a similar claim was retracted in 2020 due to issues with reproducibility and questions over the data. Superconductivity is a big deal because it prevents energy from being lost as heat when electricity flows through wires.

Superconductivity is a phenomenon that occurs when electrons in superconductors form Cooper pairs, allowing them to travel through the material with perfect efficiency. It is relatively easy to spot as it also results in a material expelling magnetic flux fields, but getting materials to superconduct at temperatures and pressure levels that are efficient and practical has been challenging.

The University of Rochester team claims to have gotten close to this using reddmatter. Researchers created the material by combining 99 percent hydrogen and 1 percent nitrogen in a gas mixture. After a few days in a chamber with lutetium at 200 degrees Celsius, the components reacted to form a striking blue compound.

The material was then placed inside a diamond anvil, which is used to apply extreme pressure to materials. The material underwent a “marked visual transformation” as pressure increased, changing from blue to pink as it became superconductive, which the team confirmed by measuring both the magnetic fields surrounding the material and its electrical conductivity.

As the pressure increased, the material turned bright red, transitioning from a superconductive to a non-superconductive metallic state. When compressed to 145,000 pounds per square inch, reddmatter exhibited superconductivity at around 21 degrees Celsius (70 Fahrenheit).

This is still roughly 10,000 times the pressure of Earth’s atmosphere, so it would still require the appropriate structures and equipment to make practical use of it. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to give your phone superpowers any time soon. However, it is significantly lower pressure than other candidates for room temperature superconductors, which require millions of times atmospheric pressure.

The researchers aren’t sure of the exact structure of reddmatter, making it hard to understand how it’s becoming superconductive. However, there are indications it may be achieving ambient superconductivity through a different mechanism to other superconductors.

The structural model suggests that there is relatively little hydrogen present in the samples compared with in similar superconducting compounds. Further research is needed to confirm that the material is a high-temperature superconductor and to understand whether this state is driven by vibration-induced Cooper pairs or an unconventional mechanism.

Dias admits that there is still much to learn about how reddmatter achieves superconductivity. But he believes reddmatter is an important first step, even if it isn’t the best superconductor available. “In everyday life, we use many different metals for different applications, so we will also need different types of superconducting materials,” Dias explained.

“A path to superconducting consumer electronics, energy transfer lines, transportation, and significant magnetic confinement improvements for fusion are now a reality,” he added. “We believe we have entered the modern era of superconductivity.”