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Room Temperature Superconductor? Yes, But Not So Fast …

There is good news and there is bad news in what we tell you. The good news is that a team of physicists found a mixture of hydrogen, carbon, and sulfur showing superconductivity at 59F. Thrilling, isn’t it? The bad news is it only works when crushed between two diamonds at pressures approaching the core of the Earth. For the view, the bottom of the Marianas trench is about 1,000 atmospheres, while the superconductor requires 2.6 million pressure atmospheres.

True, the 59F is a bit cold, but it’s easy to imagine cooling something less if you could use superconductivity. We cool the CPUs all the time. However, unless there is a success that allows the material to operate under at least reasonable pressures, it will not change much outside of a laboratory.

Top temperatures for superconductors have been rising for several years now. New theories about the role that hydrogen can play and computer models can select promising compounds that both contribute to new advances. For example, scientists have found that lanthanum hydride can superconduct between 1

313F and 8F, but at a pressure of 1.8 million atmospheres.

You can read more technical information on the Dias Group website. There is a picture of the type of diamond anvil used in these experiments on that site, and you can see it above.

Scientists still do not fully understand why this compound is superconducting at the right temperature and pressure. Work continues to identify the structure of the material and the exact chemical formula.

It wasn’t too long ago that even liquid nitrogen temperature superconductors were unheard of, but now you can do them if you have a little lab practice. You have been able to do that since at least 2018.

Photo credit: J. Adam Fenster, University of Rochester

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