Why are we talking about it?
A team of physicists from South Korea has announced the creation of a new room-temperature superconductor. The material, which is called LK-99, is made up of a modified form of lead apatite. It has been shown to conduct electricity with zero resistance at temperatures of up to 150 degrees Celsius, which is well above room temperature.
The discovery of LK-99 is a major breakthrough in the field of superconductivity.
What is a superconductor?
Regular conductors, like copper wires, encounter resistance when electricity flows through them. This resistance leads to the loss of electrical energy as heat. Superconductors, on the other hand, would allow electricity to flow without any resistance, meaning there would be virtually no energy loss during power transmission.
Can you explain the different temperatures?
The temperature of a superconductor, known as the critical temperature, is typically below 10 Kelvin (-263 degrees Celsius). Room temperature is 20-22°C. Superconductors at room temperature can cut the cost of electricity grids, computer chips, magnets for maglev trains, energy- storage devices and fusion reactors by saving electricity and money on coolants.
What has been the effort of scientists?
Normally, superconductors only work at very cold temperatures. But scientists have been working on finding room-temperature superconductors because they could be used to make efficient new devices.
What are the benefits?
If scientists succeed in finding a superconductor, it would have transformative implications as follows:
☛ Savings: This would result in much more efficient and cost-effective electricity distribution with greater productivity and financial savings.
☛ Enhanced Power Transmission: With superconductors, power lines could carry electricity over long distances with minimal loss, making it possible to transmit electricity more efficiently and economically across regions and even continents.
☛ Smaller and Faster Electronics: In the electronics industry, devices generate heat due to electrical resistance, limiting their performance and lifespan. Superconductors in electronic components would eliminate this heat dissipation issue, allowing for smaller, faster, and more powerful devices without worrying about overheating.
☛ Magnetic Levitation: Superconductors have the fascinating property of expelling magnetic fields, known as the Meissner effect. This allows superconducting materials to levitate over magnets, leading to potential applications like frictionless transportation systems.
☛ Advanced Scientific Research: Superconductors are used in cutting-edge scientific research, such as powerful magnets for particle accelerators and MRI machines. The discovery of new superconducting materials could enable more powerful and efficient scientific instruments.
Despite decades of research, scientists have only found superconducting materials that work at extremely low temperatures, often close to absolute zero. The challenge remains to discover superconductors that operate at higher, more practical temperatures, known as high-temperature superconductors.
Finally, please explain the difference among conductors:
☛ Normal conductors: When electricity flows through a normal conductor, the electrons collide with other atoms and lose energy. This is why electricity always gets hot when it flows through a wire.
☛ Superconductors: In a superconductor, the electrons are able to move past each other without running into anything. This is because the atoms in a superconductor are arranged in a very special way that allows the electrons to flow freely.
☛ Room-temperature superconductors: Room-temperature superconductors are materials that can conduct electricity with zero resistance at room temperature. This means that they can conduct electricity without getting hot.