Scientists of the University of Rochester, New York have been conducting experiments on a new superconductive material that shows no resistance at temperatures up to around 15°Celscius. This is a new temperature record for superconductivity, the ability to transfer electricity from point A to point B with minimal loss of energy.
Ranga Dias, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and physics and astronomy, said, “Developing materials that are superconducting—without electrical resistance and expulsion of a magnetic field at room temperature—is the “holy grail” of condensed matter physics. Sought for more than a century, such materials can change the world as we know it.”
To achieve superconductivity very low temperatures needed to be achieved. However, the discovery of this new material comes with a major downside. The superconductor only works under extremely high pressures, close to those found at the center of the planet. While commercial applications do not seem feasible for the near future, it does broaden our understanding of superconductive materials. The development of (near) zero-resistance materials that function at room temperature and at a feasible pressure still is a long way off.
To produce the superconducting material, scientists used hydrogen, carbon, and sulfur and photochemically synthesize organic derived carbonaceous sulfur hydride in a diamond anvil cell. This happened under extreme pressures.
Dias said, “Because of the limits of low temperature, materials with such extraordinary properties have not quite transformed the world in the way that many might have imagined. However, our discovery will break down these barriers and open the door to many potential applications.”
According to scientists, when the problem of the needed extreme pressure can be solved it has applications such as a power grid that can transfer 200 million megawatt-hours without any loss of energy. In theory, a major solar plant could be built in the Saharah desert to provide both Africa and Europe with renewable energy. Whether it will ever be possible, and economically feasible, to build such projects is yet to be seen.
Dias says, “The next challenge is finding ways to create the room-temperature superconducting materials at lower pressures, so they will be economical to produce in greater volume. In comparison to the millions of pounds of pressure created in diamond anvil cells, the atmospheric pressure of Earth at sea level is about 15 psi.”