Scientists break record for highest-temperature superconductor

Experiment produces new material that can conduct electricity perfectly

Scientists bombarded a sample of a new superconducting material (center) with X-rays to study its structure at the Advanced Photon Source. Courtesy of Drozdov et al

University of Chicago scientists are part of an international research team that has discovered superconductivity—the ability to conduct electricity perfectly—at the highest temperatures ever recorded.

Using advanced technology at UChicago-affiliated Argonne National Laboratory, the team studied a class of materials in which they observed superconductivity at temperatures of about minus-23 degrees Celsius (minus-9 degrees Fahrenheit)—a jump of about 50 degrees compared to the previous confirmed record.

Though the superconductivity happened under extremely high pressure, the result still represents a big step toward creating superconductivity at room temperature—the ultimate goal for scientists to be able to use this phenomenon for advanced technologies. The results were published May 22 in the journal Nature; Vitali Prakapenka, a research professor at the University of Chicago, and Eran Greenberg, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Chicago, are co-authors of the research.

Just as a copper wire conducts electricity better than a rubber tube, certain kinds of materials are better at becoming superconductive, a state defined by two main properties: The material offers zero resistance to electrical current and cannot be penetrated by magnetic fields. The potential uses for this are as vast as they are exciting: electrical wires without diminishing currents, extremely fast supercomputers and efficient magnetic levitation trains.

But scientists have previously only been able to create superconducting materials when they are cooled to extremely cold temperatures—initially, minus-240 degrees Celsius and more recently about minus-73 degrees Celsius. Since such cooling is expensive, it has limited their applications in the world at large.

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Scientists break record for highest-temperature superconductor
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Scientists break record for highest-temperature superconductor
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University of Chicago scientists are part of an international research team that has discovered superconductivity—the ability to conduct electricity perfectly—at the highest temperatures ever recorded.