There’s good news and there’s bad news in what we’re about to tell you. The good news is that a team of physicists has found a blend of hydrogen, carbon, and sulfur that exhibit superconductivity at 59F. Exciting, right? The bad news is that it only works when being crushed between two diamonds at pressures approaching that of the Earth’s core. For perspective, the bottom of the Marianas trench is about 1,000 atmospheres, while the superconductor needs 2.6 million atmospheres of pressure.
Granted, 59F is a bit chilly, but it is easy to imagine cooling something down that much if you could harness superconductivity. We cool off CPUs all the time. However, unless there’s a breakthrough that allows the material to operate under at least reasonable pressures, this isn’t going to change much outside of a laboratory.
The top temperature for superconductors has been rising for a few years now. New theories about the role hydrogen can play and computer models could pick out promising compounds both are contributing to these new advances. For example, scientists found that lanthanum hydride could superconduct at between -13F and 8F, but at a pressure of 1.8 million atmospheres.
You can read more technical information on the Dias Group’s website. There’s a picture of the kind of diamond anvil used in these experiments on that site, too, and you can see it above.
Scientists still don’t totally understand why this compound is superconducting at the right temperature and pressure. Work is ongoing to identify the material’s structure and exact chemical formula.
It wasn’t long ago that even liquid nitrogen temperature superconductors were unheard of, but now you can make them yourself if you have some lab proficiency. You’ve been able to do that since at least 2018.
Photo credit: J. Adam Fenster, University of Rochester