Researchers worldwide are racing to validate potentially groundbreaking claims of a new substance with alleged room-temperature superconducting properties.
These assertions, if proven, could herald a revolution in energy systems and various technologies.
The Quantum Energy Research Center in South Korea posted preliminary research papers about their discovery, named LK-99, on the academic server arXiv in July. These papers are awaiting peer review.
The prospect of a room-temperature superconductor holds immense promise, potentially enabling power transmission lines with negligible losses and innovative solutions for global energy challenges. It could also significantly cut costs for technologies like MRI machines and maglev trains, currently dependent on extremely low temperatures for operation.
LK-99, having a dark hue, comprises lead, copper, and phosphorus. The material is produced by grinding the mineral lanarkite and copper phosphide crystals into powder, which is then heated to 925 degree Celsius within a vacuum tube.
The South Korean researchers claimed that LK-99 exhibited characteristics of a superconductor at room temperature and standard atmospheric pressure. A video was released showing the substance levitating on a magnet, attributed to the Meissner effect, a hallmark of superconductivity.
However, experts remain cautious. Shunichiro Kittaka, an associate professor at Japan's Chuo University specialising in this field, emphasised that the video alone doesn't conclusively prove superconductivity. Verification necessitates demonstrating the material's ability to conduct electricity with zero resistance and observing the Meissner effect. Concerns about the credibility of the data provided in the research papers have also been raised.
Efforts to replicate LK-99's properties are ongoing worldwide. A team from China's Huazhong University of Science and Technology released a video asserting successful synthesis of the compound, but the data to confirm its superconductivity remains insufficient, as reported by Asia Nikkei.
The Korean Society of Superconductivity and Cryogenics has formed a team to authenticate the findings regarding LK-99 and has sought reference materials from the Quantum Energy Research Center.
Traditionally, superconductivity was only observed in materials chilled to near absolute zero. No material exhibited superconductivity above -140 degrees Celsius and at normal pressure.
A single report of room-temperature superconductivity under high pressure emerged, with a team from the University of Rochester, USA, claiming success. Yet, other groups have struggled to replicate these results. This situation leaves questions about the authenticity of the South Korean researchers' claims.
"If verified, this discovery could have a transformative impact on research," Kittaka concluded.
As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.
Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.
We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.
Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.