Since the discovery of superconductivity about a century ago, this material property has played an important role in modern technologies – for example, to create strong magnetic fields in maglev trains or MRI machines. However, the application of superconductivity is limited by the necessary condition: extremely low temperature. Physicists in the U.S. were the first to obtain a material with superconductivity properties at room temperature.
A team of physicists and engineers from Rochester University, led by Ranga Diaz, reported an important breakthrough: they managed to overcome a major obstacle to the proliferation of superconducting materials. These materials have zero electrical resistance and displace the magnetic field, but due to the fact that they usually only function at temperatures below 140°C, expensive equipment is required to maintain this state.
Diaz calls superconductivity at room temperature the “holy grail” of condensed matter physics. His group spent years experimenting with various materials – copper oxides and iron-based substances – but their success awaited with hydrogen, writes New Atlas.
Building a high-temperature superconductor requires strong bonds and lightweight elements,” he said. – These are the two most basic criteria. Hydrogen is the lightest substance, and its bonds are among the strongest.
The disadvantage of this approach is that pure hydrogen can only be converted to a metallic state at extremely high pressures, so scientists turned to alternative materials that are rich in hydrogen but have the right superconducting properties that can be metallized at much lower pressures.
A formula combining a mixture of hydrogen, carbon and sulfur, from which organic carbon dioxide was synthesized on a diamond anvil, turned out to be working. Hydrocarbon sulfide demonstrated superconductivity at a temperature of about 14.5 ° C and at a pressure of 267 ± 10 gigapascal.
Such materials can be used to create more efficient power grids that conduct electricity without major losses caused by the resistance of modern wires, faster maglev trains or other, even more futuristic transport.
“We live in a semiconductor world, and with this kind of technology we can turn society into a superconducting one where we will never need batteries again,” said Ashkan Salamat, co-author of the study.