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Current Affairs

Superconductivity at room temperature

Date: 19 October 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

In a major milestone for science, a group of physicists at the have discovered a material that can efficiently conduct electricity at room temperature.

 

Background

The hydrogen, carbon, and sulphur compound operates as a superconductor at up to 15 degrees Celsius. The findings have been reported in detail in the popular journal Nature.

 

Details

  • Because of the limits of low temperature, materials with such extraordinary properties have not quite transformed the world in the way that many might have imagined.

  • This has smashed the previous record of -23 degrees Celsius (-9.4 degrees Fahrenheit), and has brought the prospect of functional superconductivity a huge step forward.

  • The scientists behind the phenomenal discovery call it a massive leap in a pursuit that has lasted more than 100 years.

  • It consists of two key properties. The first is zero resistance. Usually, the flow of an electrical current encounters some degree of resistance.

  • The higher the conductivity of a material, the less electrical resistance it has, and the current can flow more freely.

  • The second is the Meissner effect, in which the magnetic fields of the superconducting material are expelled.

  • This forces the magnetic field lines to reroute around the material. If a small permanent magnet is placed above a superconducting material, the repulsive force of these magnetic field lines will cause it to levitate.

  • Superconducting materials are usually only created and maintained at extremely low temperatures, way below those found in nature.

  • Keeping materials at these temperatures is difficult and expensive, which has proven a practical barrier to broader implementation.

  • The next step in the research will be to try to reduce the high pressure needed by tuning the chemical composition of the sample.

  • If they can get the mix right, the researchers believe a room-temperature, ambient-pressure superconductor will finally be within our grasp.