Superconductivity was achieved at a record high temperature of minus-23 degrees Celsius (minus-9 degrees Fahrenheit)—a jump of about 50 degrees compared to the previous confirmed record. This was done at high pressures that were 1.5 million times more than sea level atmosphere.
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany teamed up with University of Chicago researchers to create one of these materials, called lanthanum superhydrides, test its superconductivity, and determine its structure and composition.
The only catch was that the material needed to be placed under extremely high pressure—between 150 and 170 gigapascals, more than one-and-a-half-million times the pressure at sea level. Only under these high-pressure conditions did the material—a tiny sample only a few microns across—exhibit superconductivity at the new record temperature.
In fact, the material showed three of the four characteristics needed to prove superconductivity: It dropped its electrical resistance, decreased its critical temperature under an external magnetic field and showed a temperature change when some elements were replaced with different isotopes. The fourth characteristic, called the Meissner effect, in which the material expels any magnetic field, was not detected. That’s because the material is so small that this effect could not be observed, researchers said.
They used the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory, which provides ultra-bright, high-energy X-ray beams that have enabled breakthroughs in everything from better batteries to understanding the Earth’s deep interior, to analyze the material. In the experiment, researchers within University of Chicago’s Center for Advanced Radiation Sources squeezed a tiny sample of the material between two tiny diamonds to exert the pressure needed, then used the beamline’s X-rays to probe its structure and composition.
Because the temperatures used to conduct the experiment is within the normal range of many places in the world, that makes the ultimate goal of room temperature—or at least 0 degrees Celsius—seem within reach.
The team is already continuing to collaborate to find new materials that can create superconductivity under more reasonable conditions.
“Our next goal is to reduce the pressure needed to synthesize samples, to bring the critical temperature closer to ambient, and perhaps even create samples that could be synthesized at high pressures, but still superconduct at normal pressures,” Prakapenka said. “We are continuing to search for new and interesting compounds that will bring us new, and often unexpected, discoveries.”
Superconductivity with a critical temperature of around 250 kelvin within the 𝐹𝑚3¯𝑚 structure of LaH10 at a pressure of about 170 gigapascals. This is, to our knowledge, the highest critical temperature that has been confirmed so far in a superconducting material. Superconductivity was evidenced by the observation of zero resistance, an isotope effect, and a decrease in critical temperature under an external magnetic field, which suggested an upper critical magnetic field of about 136 tesla at zero temperature. The increase of around 50 kelvin compared with the previous highest critical temperature1 is an encouraging step towards the goal of achieving room-temperature superconductivity in the near future.
SOURCES- Nature, University of Chicago