In a historic breakthrough, researchers at the University of Rochester have created a superconducting material at temperatures and pressures low enough for practical applications.
The scientists said the new material could be tuned to change the entire world. It’s a breakthrough that scientists have been chasing for over a century to create a material that can transmit electricity without resisting or allowing magnetic fields to pass around the material.
The discovery could lead to power grids capable of uninterrupted power transmission, saving up to 200 million megawatt hours (MWh) currently being wasted due to resistance.
This material could also facilitate nuclear fusion, a long-awaited process that could create unlimited amounts of energy.
The team suggests other applications include high-speed trains and new types of medical equipment.
The team, led by Ranga Diaz, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and physics, previously reported the creation of two superconducting materials — hydrogen sulfide and yttrium superhydride — in a paper published in Physical Review Letters and Nature, but the results have sparked much controversy.
This time around, Professor Diaz and his team have taken extra steps to avoid such criticism.
Diaz says the previous paper has been resubmitted to Nature with new data supporting the earlier work.
The new data was collected outside the lab, at Argonne and Brookhaven National Laboratories, in front of an audience of scientists who were watching the superconducting transmission live. A similar approach was applied to the new article.
And the material was called “red material” in reference to its color, as in the process of creating it, scientists discovered that it suddenly turned into a “very bright red” color.
Professor Diaz and his team created the material by taking a rare earth metal called lutetium and mixing it with hydrogen and a small amount of nitrogen. They were then left to react for two or three days at high temperatures.
The resulting lutetium-nitrogen-hydrogen complex initially had a “brilliant bluish” color. When the compound was then pressed into the diamond anvil cell, there was a “stunning visual transition” from blue to pink at the onset of superconductivity and then to bright red in the non-superconducting metallic state.
The material still requires heating to 20.5 degrees Celsius (69 degrees Fahrenheit) and pressure up to about 145,000 pounds per square inch (10 kilobars). But it is much less dense than other similar materials, including those announced by Professor Diaz in 2020, which caused excitement and skepticism from the scientific community.
Scientists involved in the new work say that this material will mark a new era in the practical use of superconducting materials.