A group of physicists in South Korea says they have achieved a breakthrough in the quest for a material that can conduct electricity without any resistance at normal conditions. The material, dubbed LK-99, is made from a mixture of lanarkite and copper phosphide, and reportedly shows zero resistance and the Meissner effect, two hallmarks of superconductivity.
What is superconductivity and why is it important?
Superconductivity is a phenomenon that occurs when certain materials are cooled below a critical temperature, which varies depending on the material. At this point, the material loses all electrical resistance and expels any magnetic field from its interior. This means that an electric current can flow through the material indefinitely without losing any energy, and that the material can levitate above a magnet or vice versa.
Superconductivity has many potential applications in fields such as energy, transportation, medicine, and computing. For example, superconductors can be used to create powerful magnets for MRI machines, efficient power transmission lines, fast and frictionless trains, and quantum computers. However, most superconductors require extremely low temperatures to work, which makes them costly and impractical for widespread use.
How did the Korean team create LK-99?
The Korean team, led by Professor Lee Kyung-ho of Seoul National University, claims to have created LK-99 by a solid-state reaction between lanarkite (Pb2SO5) and copper phosphide (Cu3P). Lanarkite is a mineral that contains lead and sulfur, while copper phosphide is a compound that contains copper and phosphorus. The team says they mixed the two powders in a sealed vacuum tube and heated them at different temperatures for different durations. The resulting material was a dark gray powder that they named LK-99 after their initials.
The team says they measured the electrical resistance and magnetic properties of LK-99 using various methods and instruments. They claim that LK-99 showed zero resistance at room temperature (around 20 degrees Celsius) and normal pressure (around 1 atmosphere). They also claim that LK-99 exhibited the Meissner effect, which means that it repelled a magnetic field from its interior. The team has provided a video of LK-99 partially levitating above a magnet as evidence of this effect.
How reliable are the team’s claims?
The team’s claims have not been peer-reviewed or replicated by other researchers yet. They have posted two papers on the arXiv preprint server, which is an online platform where scientists can share their work before formal publication. The papers have not been verified by experts or editors, and may contain errors or flaws.
There have been several previous claims of room-temperature superconductors over the past few years, but none of them have been confirmed or accepted by the scientific community. Some of them have been retracted or debunked after further scrutiny or criticism. The main challenges in verifying such claims are the reproducibility of the results, the accuracy of the measurements, and the elimination of possible sources of error or contamination.
The team’s claims have been met with both excitement and skepticism by other physicists. Some have praised the team for their bold attempt and innovative approach, while others have questioned the validity and quality of their data and methods. Some have also pointed out that LK-99 contains lead, which is a toxic element that poses health and environmental risks.
What are the implications and challenges of LK-99?
If the team’s claims are true, LK-99 will be a revolutionary discovery that will change the fields of physics and engineering. It will be the first material to achieve superconductivity at room temperature and normal pressure, which has been a long-standing goal and dream of many scientists. It will open up new possibilities and opportunities for developing and applying superconducting technologies in various domains.
However, there are still many challenges and questions that need to be addressed before LK-99 can be used for practical purposes. For instance, how stable and durable is LK-99? How can it be synthesized in large quantities and at low costs? How can it be shaped into wires or other forms? How can it be integrated with other materials or devices? How can it be handled safely and ethically? These are some of the issues that will require further research and development.
What will happen next?
The team says they are planning to submit their papers to peer-reviewed journals for publication soon. They also say they are willing to share their samples and methods with other researchers who want to verify or reproduce their results. They hope that their work will inspire more studies and collaborations on room-temperature superconductivity.
However, it is not clear whether their papers will be accepted or rejected by the journals, or whether their results will be confirmed or refuted by other experiments. It is also not clear whether LK-99 will be able to overcome the technical and ethical hurdles that may hinder its practical use. It is possible that LK-99 will be another false claim that will fade away in history, or that it will be a genuine breakthrough that will usher in a new era of science and technology. Only time will tell.