American scientists have succeeded in making material superconducting under high pressure at a temperature of 15 degrees Celsius. This is an important step towards the practical use of superconductivity at room temperature, for electronics, for example.
The researchers at the University of Rochester have succeeded in making the material carbonaceous sulfur hydride superconducting at 15 degrees Celsius and under a pressure of 39 million psi, or 267 gigapascals. The researchers will now focus on ways to realize superconductivity at a lower pressure, so that deployment in practice is possible in the long term and economically feasible.
The amount of superconducting material was measured in picoliters, or one millionth of a microliter. That minute amount of carbonaceous sulfur hydride was put under extreme pressure in a so-called diamond anvil cell, which is used in scientific experiments for these kinds of purposes.
Although practical use is still a long way off, the researchers call their work an important step in the pursuit of the use of superconductivity at room temperature. This is something that is considered a ‘holy grail’ by some physics disciplines because it enables the transport of electricity without loss and thus, for example, much more efficient electronics and electricity networks.
The previous record for relatively high temperature superconductivity was claimed by a team from George Washington University in 2018. The researchers were able to make lanthanum hydride superconducting at a temperature of -13 degrees Celsius and they also hinted at 7 degrees Celsius. Comparable research by the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz did not exceed -23 degrees Celsius in 2019.
Superconductivity was discovered in 1911 by the Groningen physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes, who established that the electrical resistance of mercury completely disappeared at a temperature of -268.95 degrees Celsius. Since then, scientists have been experimenting with superconductivity at higher temperatures with various materials.
The University of Rochester research team has published its findings in Nature.