Room-temp superconductors could be possible

September 29, 2016 by Ariana Tantillo
This composite image offers a glimpse inside the custom system Brookhaven scientists used to create samples of materials that may pave the way for high-temperature superconductors. Credit: Brookhaven National Lab

Superconductors are the holy grail of energy efficiency. These mind-boggling materials allow electric current to flow freely without resistance. But that generally only happens at temperatures within a few degrees of absolute zero (minus 459 degrees Fahrenheit), making them difficult to deploy today. However, if we're able to harness the powers of superconductivity at room temperature, we could transform how energy is produced, stored, distributed and used around the globe.

In a recent breakthrough, scientists at the Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory got one step closer to understanding how to make that possible. The research, led by physicist Ivan Bozovic, involves a class of compounds called cuprates, which contain layers of copper and oxygen atoms.

Under the right conditions—which, right now, include ultra-chilly temperatures—electrical current flows freely through these without encountering any "roadblocks" along the way. That means none of the electrical energy they're carrying gets converted to heat. If you've ever rested your laptop on your lap, you've felt the heat lost by a non-superconducting material.

Creating the right conditions for superconductivity in cuprates also involves adding other chemical elements such as strontium. Somehow, adding those atoms and chilling the material causes electrons—which normally repel one another—to pair up and effortlessly move together through the material. What makes cuprates so special is that they can achieve this "magical" state of matter at temperatures a hundred degrees or more above those required by standard superconductors. That makes them very promising for real-world, energy-saving applications.

These materials wouldn't require any cooling, so they'd be relatively easy and inexpensive to incorporate into our everyday lives. Picture power grids that never lose energy, more affordable mag-lev train systems, cheaper medical imaging machines like MRI scanners, and smaller yet powerful supercomputers.

A bonding structure of copper and oxygen atoms on a plane within a cuprate. Credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory

To figure out the mystery of "high-temperature" superconductivity in the cuprates, scientists need to understand how the electrons in these materials behave. Bozovic's team has now solved part of the mystery by determining what exactly controls the temperature at which cuprates become superconducting.

The standard theory of superconductivity says that this temperature is controlled by the strength of the electron-pairing interaction, but Bozovic's team has discovered otherwise. After 10 years of preparing and analyzing more than 2,000 samples of a cuprate with varying amounts of strontium, they found that the number of within a given area (say, per cubic centimeter), or the density of electron pairs, controls the superconducting . In other words, it's not the forces between objects that matter here, but the density of objects—in this case, electron pairs.

The scientists arrived at this conclusion by measuring how far a was able to get through each sample. This distance is directly related to the density of electron pairs, and the distance differs depending on the material's properties. In superconductors, the magnetic field is mostly expelled; in metals, the magnetic field permeates. With too much strontium, the cuprate becomes more conductive because the number of mobile electrons increases. Yet the scientists found that as they added more strontium, the number of electron pairs decreased until absolutely no electrons paired up at all. At the same time, the superconducting transition temperature dropped toward zero. Bozovic and his team were quite surprised at this discovery that only a fraction of the electrons paired up, even though they all should have.

Think of it like this: You're in a dance hall, and at some point, you and the other people—who normally wouldn't be caught arm-in-arm—begin to pair up and move in unison. Some newcomers arrive, and they too pair up and join the harmonious dance. But then something strange happens. No matter how many more people make their way to the dance floor, only a fraction of them pair, even though they are all free to do so. Eventually, nobody pairs up at all.

Why do the dancers, or electrons, pair up in the first place? Answering that question is the next step toward unlocking the mechanism of in the cuprates—a mystery that's been puzzling physicists for more than 30 years.

Explore further: Scientists uncover origin of high-temperature superconductivity in copper-oxide compound

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TheGhostofOtto1923
not rated yet Sep 29, 2016
RTS in consumer products better be able to handle higher temps or mechanical damage without a quench or exploding S7 batteries will pale in comparison.
antialias_physorg
3.9 / 5 (7) Sep 29, 2016
These materials wouldn't require any cooling

I think this isn't correct. While cuprates are 'high temperature' superconductors the 'high' only means that they require liquid nitrogen instead of liquid helium for cooling. While this makes them far easier to handle (and far cheaper to cool) it still means that substantial cooling efforts are required.
physman
4 / 5 (4) Sep 29, 2016
I'm just waiting for the crazy room temperature superconductor guy to turn up here
Eikka
4.7 / 5 (3) Sep 29, 2016
Picture power grids that never lose energy


That's technically correct only for DC and only if the load doesn't change. Any fluctuations in the current couple outside of the power line inductively and capacitively and cause parasitic losses. A superconductor may have zero R, but that doesn't mean it has zero Z.

The conversion to and from DC for local distribution at the ends of the cable has a loss in a similiar range with ordinary AC lines. The advantage is that the DC line losses don't increase as much with distance, and with superconducing DC the loss would be almost constant regardless of the length of the wire.

So, the lossless powergrid is an unrealistic fantasy, but with smart utilization you can reduce losses considerably.
optical
Sep 29, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
humy
1 / 5 (3) Sep 29, 2016
Picture power grids that never lose energy

That is an illogical statement because that cannot be validly pictured; a power grid that never lose energy would look identical to one that does sometimes lose energy. What difference would lose of energy or no energy loss make to the visual appearance of a power grid? Energy lose is not something visible except in your energy bill.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Sep 29, 2016
That is an illogical statement because that cannot be validly pictured

If you have IR goggles it can.

But it's illogical on another level because you WANT a power grid to lose energy occasionally. A power grid that never loses any is not connected to anything (which would be pretty pointless for a power grid).
Phys1
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 29, 2016
"But that generally only happens at temperatures within a few degrees of absolute zero"
Fortunately, the situation has improved since 1911 :-) .
" (minus 459 degrees Fahrenheit),"
Can anybody tell me how many furlongs that is?
physman
5 / 5 (3) Sep 29, 2016
@optical I knew you'd show up here, thanks! Happy Thursday
optical
Sep 29, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
bschott
1 / 5 (4) Sep 29, 2016
they found that the number of electron pairs within a given area (say, per cubic centimeter), or the density of electron pairs, controls the superconducting transition temperature.


Johan Prins has shown how to achieve room temp. SC both mathematically AND experimentally. As usual, it doesn't work how the mainstream thinks it does, and as usual he is ridiculed for suggesting this....despite his credentials, experience and blatantly superior understanding.
https://www.linke...an-prins

Must be a result of, as Optical (Zeph) put it one day his "challenging personality".
optical
Sep 29, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (4) Sep 29, 2016
The room temperature superconductors were prepared already. There is whole list of them
So zephyr just why do think it is that actual physicists with actual titles and actual jobs would pass up an opportunity at nobel prizes and 6 - no 7! figure corporate jobs by simply producing this stuff and taking credit for it, rather than being quoted in physorg articles stating that 'it might just be possible some time in the future'?

For that matter why would johan freddy prins not be already once and at same time be rich and nobeled already yet? Does KGB have makarov to head perhaps?

Have you not some answers both in english and zephyr-speak or not just one? Yes or what?
bschott
1 / 5 (3) Sep 29, 2016
The room temperature superconductors are merely classical and they don't care about some pairing at all

Agreed.

Johans experimental set up in which he observed the current form had a lot to do with it. The material, doping compound and igniter of current found an SC "sweet spot" so to speak. I think the lack of mainstream acceptance had as much to do with the impracticality of N-diamond current pathways as anything else.
optical
Sep 29, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
bschott
1 / 5 (4) Sep 29, 2016
For that matter why would johan freddy prins not be already once and at same time be rich and nobeled already yet?


Excellent question TheGhostofChristmaspastOtto. He is just fine monetarily, still writes papers once in awhile but is for the most part retired. As for the nobel prize....sure the money could be useful, but considering some of the past recipients and what they have received it for....I'm just waiting for Dr. Suess to get his for linguistic prowess.

optical
Sep 29, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Phys1
5 / 5 (6) Sep 29, 2016
Nobel prizes are given for abstract findings of zero practical value for normal people.

Superconductivity, ccd, graphene, lasers, blue LED, light transmission in fibers, Giant Magnetoresistance, etc etc etc
All useless, "optical"?
You are making a big fool of yourself.
https://www.nobel...ureates/
optical
Sep 29, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
optical
Sep 29, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Phys1
5 / 5 (3) Sep 29, 2016
@optical
The electrons were attracted to these negatively charged places

That is quite unexpected.
In general electrons are repelled by negative charge.
optical
Sep 29, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
optical
Sep 29, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
optical
Sep 29, 2016
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optical
Sep 29, 2016
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cortezz
5 / 5 (1) Sep 30, 2016
I find all these rt superconducting articles bit funny. I don't know much about the subject but the articles are all some way sketchy. Some don't give the experimental details because "patents pending", some done in "private research center", one stating that they proved material to be superconductivy but only has graphs about magnet stuff, one saying their material is superconductivy after a certain point because their ohmmeter doesn't go futher down. Then there is statements like "This results in the formation of a stable phase at room
temperature, which has to be superconducting." without further clarification. If I made big findings like that, I'd publish in nature with all the details given in precise manner. There must be a reason why these guys don't do that...
optical
Sep 30, 2016
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optical
Sep 30, 2016
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humy
5 / 5 (4) Sep 30, 2016
You are welcome. The physicists currently ignore at least half dozen of room superconductivity findings (http://www.jetple...7185.pdf in which mainstream science is working.

The reason why no attempt was made to replicate them is because they are either obvious scientifically badly flawed or, worse, obviously fraudulent (usually motivated as an attempt to get research funding but sometimes just publicity). Thus there is nothing wrong with the way "mainstream science is working" but rather this rejection by science of obvious fraudulent/unscientific nonsense is an indication that "mainstream science is working" just fine.
humy
not rated yet Sep 30, 2016
That is an illogical statement because that cannot be validly pictured

If you have IR goggles it can.


Good point; didn't think of that one.
optical
Sep 30, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
optical
Sep 30, 2016
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Bongstar420
not rated yet Oct 01, 2016
Yes..this stuff is not that new

Just wait and see whats in the works. Hoooey!
Conundrum2015
not rated yet Oct 03, 2016
Hi folks. I have two different ideas here, idea *1 is to make lead bismuth carbide using a very simple procedure (untested) utilizing pyrolytic graphite and BiPb eutectic in a strong electric field while bombarding the graphite side with blue 445nm laser radiation to electromigrate . Its never been tried TTBOMK but should work as it "skips" over the thermodynamically forbidden transition that normally prevents PbC2 from forming, The resultant material should have a very high Tc at a narrow re-entrant band around 290K, may have accidentally made some while tinkering in 2011 and documented the resistance drop.
Idea *2, similar to *1 but use Mg2CxLi, formed using very simple intercalation effects used every day in lithium-ion batteries. Again the effect seen was actually documented in 2011 but I couldn't secure funding at the time to pursue it, used IIRC pyrolytic graphite with an abnormal number of holes and some MEK/acetone with the lithium and magnesium obtained from a broken Li cell
optical
Oct 03, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Conundrum2015
not rated yet Oct 04, 2016
Interesting, thanks for the feedback.
I wonder if the reason this worked (once!) in my shed laboratory is that the solvent had some flukey combination of acetone and MEK? We still don't know why Pablo could get it to work and Kawashima et al but for some reason it didn't work in the bulk. It suggests that water contaminated with small amounts of Pb (ie from the pipes) might be the key and worthy of further experiments.

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