Rochester University scientists have achieved a first in condensed matter physics by creating a superconducting material at room temperature.
Led by assistant professor Ranga Dias, the Rochester team combined hydrogen with carbon and sulfur to photochemically synthesize simple organic-derived carbonaceous sulfur hydride in a diamond anvil cell.
This carbonaceous sulfur hydride has exhibited superconductivity at about 58 degrees Fahrenheit and a pressure of and a pressure of about 39 million pounds per square inch (psi).
“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,” notes Dias.
“However, our discovery will break down these barriers and open the door to many potential applications.”
These include power grids that can transmit electricity without the loss of up to 200 million megawatt hours (MWh) of the energy that now occurs due to resistance in the wires.
It could also lead to a new way to propel levitated trains and other forms of transportation – while also paving the way for faster and more efficient electronics.
“We live in a semiconductor society, and with this kind of technology, you can take society into a superconducting society where you’ll never need things like batteries again,” says University of Nevada assistant professor and co-author of the discovery, Ashkan Salamat.
Powerful superconducting electromagnets are already critical components of maglev trains, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) machines, particle accelerators and other advanced technologies, including early quantum supercomputers.
The next challenge for Dias is to create room temperature superconducting materials at lower pressures, making them economical enough 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.
Both Dias and Salamat have started a new company called ‘Unearthly Materials’ to scalably produce room temperature superconductors at ambient pressure.
Image and content: J. Adam Fenster/University of Rochester