Moving the Technology Along

Here’s a development that caught my eye. Some researchers have announced that they have developed a material with superconductive properties at 59°F. That’s not exactly room temperature but it’s a lot closer than the supercold temperatures previously required. From Joel Hruska at ExtremeTech:

The search for a truly room-temperature superconducting material has been one of the great Holy Grails in engineering and physics. The ability to move electricity from Point A to B with zero resistance and hence no losses would be a game-changer for human civilization. Unfortunately, until today, every known superconductor still required very cold temperatures. Today, scientists announced they’ve achieved superconducting at 59 degrees Fahrenheit/15 Celsius. While this is still a bit chilly, you can hit 59F in a well air-conditioned building. This is a genuine breakthrough, but it doesn’t immediately clear the path towards easy deployment of the technology.

At extremely low temperatures, the behavior of electrons through a material changes. At temperatures approaching absolute zero, electrons passing through a material form what are known as Cooper pairs. Normally, single electrons essentially ping-pong through the ionic lattice of the material they are passing through. Each time an electron collides with an ion in the lattice, it loses a tiny amount of energy. This loss is what we call resistance. When cooled to a low enough temperature, electrons behave dramatically differently. Cooper pairs behave like a superfluid, meaning they can flow through material without any underlying energy loss. Tests have demonstrated that current stored inside a superconductor will remain there for as long as the material remains in a superconductive state with zero loss of energy.

There are a couple of glitches in this finding. For one thing the researchers don’t know why it works. The lack of a good explanation for it is a bit of an impediment.

The second is that it they only see the effect at 2.5M atmospheres of pressure. That’s a lot of pressure. Pressure that high prohibits practical deployment of the solution.

Nevertheless, this is an important discovery which may lead to the much-desired room temperature normal pressure superconductors. Those would make energy transmission and storage much more efficient, paving the way for making some green dreams possible.

8 comments… add one
  • bob sykes Link

    39 million psi. And that in a diamond anvil. From an engineering viewpoint I rather operate at a couple of hundred negative F and 1 atm.

  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    Physicists still don’t have a definitive explanation for “high temperature” (requires only liquid nitrogen instead of liquid helium) superconductors discovered in the 80’s.

    A unified theory of superconductivity is a major topic in theoretical and applied physics.

  • steve Link

    OT- Keep meaning to link to this blog from CMU doing work on Covid. Son and his friends made a very small contribution to this. One more way of gathering data on Covid. The group has been tracking and forecasting on flu for a while so they do have some experience.


  • It’s interesting but it seems to me the data are very subject to misinterpretation. Take, for example, the last map they show. What does it tell us? Does it tell us about the lack of testing facilities or about the respondents’ irrational fears?

  • steve Link

    Wouldnt both be interesting? Fears of having a Covid test would be pretty irrational and if they are widespread we should know that and address it, if possible.


  • TarsTarkas Link

    ‘Wouldnt both be interesting? Fears of having a Covid test would be pretty irrational and if they are widespread we should know that and address it, if possible.’

    The fear IMO is not so much the disease anymore as the fear of having to go into quarantine and subsequent job/income/freedom to move about loss plus shunning by family and friends and colleagues. The leper effect.

  • I’m just looking for an explanation, other than it being irrational, that Massachusetts has the highest number reporting that they want tests but are unable to get them and how to reconcile that with being one of the lowest in the percentage of people who know someone with COVID-19.

  • steve Link

    If Massachusetts saw anything like we did and continue to see off and on, testing reagents and kits got sent south and west when they were peaking. People wanted tests but couldn’t get them or couldn’t get them in a timely fashion, which is pretty much the same as not being available. So knowing or not knowing someone with Covid would be irrelevant.


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