Superconductivity Temperature Record

Superconductivity Temperature Record

A new study report that they’ve broken the superconductivity temperature record using a simple compound called hydrogen sulphide. If confirmed this discovery can have far-reaching consequences.

Superconductivity is the term used for a compound that have zero resistance when conducting electricity. This means you wont lose any energy to heat in a circuit making it 100% effective. Researchers have seen this effect when they come near absolute zero temperatures, the lowest temperature a material can reach, at it all atoms have stopped moving. Temperature record for superconductivity have previously been held by a class of materials called cuprates. These materials have managed to achieve superconductivity at temperatures of 164 K or -109°C. New developments now show that by using the common element hydrogen sulphide researchers have brought this temperature up to a balmy -83°C.

Superconductivity Temperature Record

This new research from many co-operating universities can be found at arXiv.org repository.

This latest research builds upon the BCS theory. That states that electrons can form cooper pairs which enable them to travel through a crystal structure completely without resistance at a low enough temperature. Using this theory as a basis, a group of Chinese physicists predicted that it should be possible to the superconductivity temperature record using the compound hydrogen sulphide (H2S). The only caveat was that you’d have to expose the H2S to extreme pressures for this to work. This extreme pressure would press cooper pairs together and make them less likely to fall apart by temperature variations in the material.

In the study researchers at the Max Planck Institute tested this prediction. They placed an extremely small sample of hydrogen sulphide (1/100th of a millimeter across) between two diamonds anvils, subjecting it to extreme pressure. They then cooled this setup while measuring how the conductivity changed as they neared absolute zero temperatures. They found that by subjecting the compound to 1.6 million atmospheres of pressure it became superconductive at 190 K or about -83°C. Confirming that even such an “uncomplicated” material can become a superconductor.

Even though not a huge increase compared to cuprates, it’s a huge accomplishment compared to the previous materials using cooper pairs traveling through crystals. The record for this type of material is a freezing 39 K, so this new temperature record is basically the tropics by comparison.

If this superconductivity temperature record is confirmed, it would signify a huge leap forward in superconductivity research. Possible real world applications for superconductivity is anything from Maglev trains to particle colliders such as the LHC at CERN and even magnetic confinement for theoretical fusion reactors.

Image credit: sach1tb via flickr.com, CC BY-SA 2.0