First room-temperature superconductor

Squeezing elements between two diamonds produces the extraordinary pressures needed for superconductivity Credit:Adam Fenster

A compound of hydrogen, carbon and sulfur has broken a symbolic barrier — but its high pressure conditions make it difficult to analyse.

Scientists have created a mystery material that seems to conduct electricity without any resistance at temperatures of up to about 15 °C. That’s a new record for superconductivity, a phenomenon usually associated with very cold temperatures. The material itself is poorly understood, but it shows the potential of a class of superconductors discovered in 2015.

The superconductor has one serious limitation, however: it survives only under extremely high pressures, approaching those at the centre of Earth, meaning that it will not have any immediate practical applications. Still, physicists hope it could pave the way for the development of zero-resistance materials that can function at lower pressures.

The latest study, published1 in Nature on 14 October, seems to provide convincing evidence of high-temperature conductivity, says physicist Mikhail Eremets at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany — although he adds that he would like to see more “raw data” from the experiment. He adds that it vindicates a line of work that he started in 2015, when his group reported2 the first high-pressure, high-temperature superconductor — a compound of hydrogen and sulfur that had zero resistance up to −70 °C.

Journal reference: NatureDOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2801-z

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