In a First, Researchers Achieve Superconductivity at Room Temperature

The process could open the door to many potential applications.
Fabienne Lang

A milestone in the quest for superconductivity has finally been reached: researchers have found a way of creating a resistance-free flow of an electrical current at room temperature. 

No freezing temperatures were needed, and it all happened at 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celcius).

The researchers are from the University of Rochester, and this is the first time such an experiment has successfully been carried out at such balmy temperatures. Previous barriers have been broken and new paths can be paved in the realm of superconductivity thanks to this new research. 

The study was published in the journal Nature on Wednesday.


Potential prospects

The 'warmest' temperature superconductivity was previously manageable at was a fresh -9.4 degrees Fahrenheit (-23 degrees Celcius). So this new discovery smashes that previous record easily. 

As University of Rochester's Ranga Dias whose lab the discovery was made in stated, this discovery is the "holy grail" of condensed matter physics. Moreover, it can "definitely change the world as we know it."

Superconductor. Source: Adam Fenster/University of Rochester

The team reached its new record by combining hydrogen with carbon and sulfur "to photochemically synthesize simple organic-derived carbonaceous sulfur hydride in a diamond anvil cell," as the research described.

This sulfur hydride showed superconductivity at around 58 degrees Fahrenheit (14 degrees Celcius), and a pressure of roughly 39 million pounds per square inch

"Our discovery will break down these barriers and open the door to many potential applications," explained Dias. 

Superconductivity explained

Superconductivity was first discovered in 1911. It consists of two properties, which are zero resistance and the Meissner effect. Superconducting materials have, up until now, only been created and maintained at extremely low temperatures. 

Superconductivity can be useful across a number of fields, which include propelling levitating trains, medical imaging and scanning techniques, faster electronics, among others.

The lab. Source: Adam Fenster/University of Rochester

"We live in a semiconductor society, and with this kind of technology, you can take society into a superconducting society where you’ll never need things like batteries again," stated Ashkan Salamat of the University of Nevada Las Vegas, a coauthor of the study.

"To have a high temperature superconductor, you want stronger bonds and light elements. Those are the two very basic criteria. Hydrogen is the lightest material, and the hydrogen bond is one of the strongest," said Dias

Dias and Salamat have created their own company called Unearthly Materials, which focuses on finding a way to create room temperature superconductors that are scalably produced at regular temperature.

Superconductivity is a focus for many a researcher, and new discoveries about it are being found day by day.