Superconductors: The Material That Promises To Create An Energy Revolution

Finding a material that is superconducting of energy and that works at room temperature has been the wish of scientists for a century. In a lab they finally got it

Science finally found the first material to display a property they have sought for nearly a century: super conduction at room temperature.

A superconducting material allows electrical current to flow through it with perfect efficiency, without wasting energy .

Until now, much of the energy we generate is lost due to electrical resistance, which is dissipated in the form of heat.

Therefore, superconducting materials at room temperature could revolutionize the electrical grid.

In the past, achieving superconductivity has required cooling materials to very low temperatures. When this property was discovered in 1911, it occurred at a temperature close to so-called absolute zero (-273.15 ° C).

A power line
Superconductors at room temperature could revolutionize the electrical grid.

Physicists have since found materials that can be superconducting at higher temperatures, but still very cold.

The team behind this latest discovery say they have made a breakthrough in a search for more than a century.

They observed the superconducting property in a carbonaceous sulfur hydride compound at a temperature of 15 ° C.

However, the property only appeared at extremely high pressures of 267 billion pascals, about a million times higher than typical car tire pressure.

This obviously limits its practical usefulness.

A laboratory used to study superconductivity
The scientists were able to observe the superconducting behavior at room temperature.

“Due to the limits of low temperature, materials with such extraordinary properties have not transformed the world in the way that many might have imagined,” says Dr. Ranga Dias of the University of Rochester, New York.

“However, our discovery will break down these barriers and open the door to many potential applications.”

The next goal will be to find ways to create superconductors at room temperature at lower pressures , which will make it economical to produce them in larger volumes.

Dias says that when they are found “they can definitely change the world as we know it.”

In the United States, electrical grids lose more than 5% of their energy through the transmission process. Therefore, avoiding this loss could potentially save billions of dollars and even have an effect on the climate.

A magnet floats on a superconductor cooled with liquid nitrogen.
A magnet floats on a superconductor cooled with liquid nitrogen.

These materials could have many other applications.

These include a new way of propelling magnetic trains , such as the Maglevs that “float” on the track in Japan and China. Levitation is a characteristic of some superconducting materials.

Another application would be in electronics to make it faster and more efficient.

“With this kind of technology, we can become a superconducting society where you will never need things like batteries again,” said co-author Ashkan Salamat of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.

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