"Reddmatter" shows evidence of room temperature superconductivity
Scientists at the University of Rochester claim to have created a material that acts as a superconductor at room temperature and lower pressures than ever before. If confirmed, this “reddmatter,” as they call it, could mark a major breakthrough.
Even if a material is a good conductor of electricity, it will still encounter some resistance that affects efficiency. But in superconductors, electrons can flow freely with zero resistance, which could theoretically provide major advantages in energy grids, electric vehicles, quantum computers and even high-speed maglev trains.
But of course, there’s a catch: superconductivity only really works at temperatures close to absolute zero, which makes it prohibitive for widespread real-world use. In recent years, scientists have found that some materials can work as superconductors at higher temperatures, but only if you apply very high pressures, which brings its own challenges to scaling up the tech.
In the new study, the Rochester scientists claim to have created a material that works as a superconductor at room temperature and relatively low pressure. The material is a nitrogen-doped lutetium hydride (NDLH), and it demonstrates superconductivity at a balmy 20.9 °C (69.5 °F) at 145,000 psi of pressure. The latter figure may sound high, but it’s about two orders of magnitude lower than has been needed in other experiments, and falls within the range used in some manufacturing techniques.
The team started with the element lutetium, combined with hydrogen to form a hydride, giving the material properties that made it a promising candidate for room temperature superconductivity. It was then doped with nitrogen to make it more stable, allowing it to work under lower pressure.
In the beginning the material was a lustrous blue color, but as it was compressed in a diamond anvil it shifted to pink when it became superconductive, and finally a bright red when it moved beyond superconducting into a metallic state. Because of this, the team started jokingly calling it reddmatter, in a reference to Star Trek.
Room-temperature superconductivity would be a massive scientific breakthrough, allowing for advances like efficient power grids that can transmit electricity without losses, high-speed, energy-efficient levitating trains, and faster, smaller and more efficient computers and medical imaging technologies. It could even be the key to tokamak reactors that bust open fusion energy.
Before we get too carried away, however, it’s worth remembering that this research still needs plenty of work, not least of which is having the results verified and reproduced by independent scientists. After all, this same team made some bold claims about room temperature superconductivity in 2020, in a paper that was later retracted by Nature after other scientists raised concerns with the data processing techniques used.
To the team’s credit, the data on the new study was collected while independent scientists looked on, and the original paper has also been resubmitted with new data. Future work will continue to explore the material’s superconductivity to better understand how it works and how it might be used.
The study was published in the journal Nature, and the team describes the work in the video below.
Source: University of Rochester