A team of physicists in South Korea has announced a breakthrough in the quest for a material that can conduct electricity without resistance at room temperature and normal pressure. The team says they have created a dark gray substance, dubbed LK-99, that exhibits superconductivity under these conditions.
What is superconductivity and why is it important?
Superconductivity is a phenomenon in which a material loses all electrical resistance when cooled below a certain temperature, known as the critical temperature. This means that electric currents can flow through the material without any loss of energy or generation of heat. Superconductors also have other remarkable properties, such as expelling magnetic fields and levitating above magnets.
Superconductivity has many potential applications in fields such as energy, transportation, medicine, and computing. For example, superconductors could enable more efficient power transmission and storage, faster and more powerful computers, and levitating trains. However, most superconductors require extremely low temperatures and high pressures to work, which limits their practical 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 two compounds: lanarkite (Pb2SO5) and copper phosphide (Cu3P). The team says they mixed the powders of these compounds in a sealed vacuum tube and heated them at different temperatures for different durations. They then cooled the resulting mixture and measured its electrical and magnetic properties.
The team reports that LK-99 showed zero resistance at temperatures up to 27 degrees Celsius (80.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and pressures up to one atmosphere (14.7 pounds per square inch). They also claim that LK-99 exhibited the Meissner effect, which is a hallmark of superconductivity. The team has posted two papers on the arXiv preprint server, where they describe their methods and results in detail.
What are the challenges and implications of LK-99?
The Korean team’s claim has not yet been verified by independent experts or published in a peer-reviewed journal. There have been previous claims of room-temperature superconductors that turned out to be false or flawed. Therefore, the scientific community is cautious and skeptical about LK-99 until more evidence is provided.
If LK-99 is confirmed to be a genuine room-temperature, ambient-pressure superconductor, it would be a major breakthrough in physics and engineering. It would open up new possibilities for developing novel technologies that rely on superconductivity. It would also challenge the existing theories of how superconductivity works and inspire further research into the underlying mechanisms and principles.
However, even if LK-99 is real, it may not be easy to use or scale up. The team admits that LK-99 is unstable and prone to degradation when exposed to air or moisture. They also say that LK-99 is not very pure or homogeneous, which may affect its performance and reproducibility. Moreover, the team has not yet revealed the chemical composition or structure of LK-99, which are essential for understanding its properties and potential applications.