- A team of South Korean researchers report on a room-temperature superconductor in the pre-print server ArXiv.
- The superconductor is based on a modified lead-apatite structure.
- Previous claims of room-temperature superconductors have not held up to scientific scrutiny, so this work has a long research journey ahead.
While it has yet to be peer-reviewed and likely faces a great deal of scrutiny, a team of scientists are reporting on the preprint server ArXiv that they have achieved room-temperature superconductor using a modified lead-apatite — LK-99 — structure
According to the paper, operating at ambient pressure, LK-99 exhibits superconductivity with a critical temperature greater than or equal to 400 K, or 127°C.
The researchers demonstrated LK-99’s superconducting properties through various key parameters, including zero-resistivity, critical current (Ic), critical magnetic field (Hc) and the Meissner effect. Unlike previous attempts, the scientists said that LK-99’s superconductivity arises from a minute structural distortion caused by a slight volume shrinkage of 0.48%. This distortion is induced by the substitution of Cu2+ ions for Pb2+(2) ions in the insulating network of Pb(2)-phosphate, generating internal stress.
The stress then transfers to Pb(1) of the cylindrical column, resulting in the distortion of the cylindrical column interface. The team said that this unique phenomenon creates superconducting quantum wells (SQWs) within the interface, contributing to LK-99’s superconducting capabilities.
Heat capacity measurements provided supporting evidence for the proposed model, reinforcing LK-99’s ability to maintain its superconducting state at room temperatures and ambient pressure, the researchers report.
The researchers include Sukbae Lee, CEO of Quantum Energy Research Centre, Ji-Hoon Kim, also of Quantum Energy Research Centre and Young-Wan Kwon, KU-KIST Graduate School of Converging Science and Technology.
In 2011, Lee withdrew a patent for a phase-transitional material.
A Holy Grail?
Room-temperature superconductivity is important because it has the potential to revolutionize multiple aspects of science and technology. One of the most significant advantages of room-temperature superconductors is the unprecedented energy efficiency they offer. Traditional superconductors require extremely low temperatures to function, making their practical applications limited and energy-intensive. However, with room-temperature superconductors, power transmission and distribution systems experience minimal energy losses due to virtually zero electrical resistance.
Additionally, the advent of room-temperature superconductivity could pave the way for groundbreaking advancements in transportation, such as high-speed trains that can travel without using much energy. Moreover, superconducting materials could be utilized in energy storage devices, enabling highly efficient and compact solutions for grid-scale storage and portable electronics.
Quantum computing would be a direct beneficiary of this work With room-temperature superconductivity, quantum computing could become more practical and accessible. Most quantum computers mow operate at ultra-low temperatures, approaching absolute zero, to minimize noise. This requirement for extreme cooling is not only technically challenging and costly but also limits the scalability of quantum computing systems. Room-temperature superconductors, with their ability to conduct electricity without resistance at ambient temperatures, could provide a stable and controlled environment for qubits without the need for elaborate cooling systems.
While this discovery sounds promising, it is important to approach the research with caution. Before it can be widely accepted scientifically, further rigorous and independent verification is needed. The scientific community must replicate the experiments and results to confirm the reproducibility and reliability of the findings.
Additionally, researchers need to conduct extensive studies to understand the fundamental mechanisms behind room-temperature superconductivity in LK-99. Exploring potential limitations and challenges, such as the stability and longevity of the superconducting state, is critical to assess the material’s practical applicability.
Peer review and scrutiny from experts in the field are also helpful in validating the claims made in the research.
It is also crucial to investigate the scalability and manufacturability for potential real-world applications. Assessing the cost, availability, and environmental impact of the materials used in its synthesis will be needed to determine if this approach can scale.