A team of researchers from George Washington University in the US is saying that a hydride of lanthanum compressed to 200 GPa (2 Mbars) could be superconducting at temperatures near room temperature – a result that has been backed up with findings from another group in Germany. The results could be a major step towards realizing the long-sought goal of room-temperature superconductivity for energy applications.
Superconductivity is the ability of a material to conduct electricity without any resistance. It is observed in many materials when they are cooled to below their superconducting transition temperature (Tc). In the Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer (BCS) theory of (“conventional”) superconductivity, this occurs when electrons overcome their mutual electrical repulsion and form “Cooper pairs” that then travel unheeded through the material as a supercurrent.
Superconductivity was first observed in 1911 in solid mercury below a Tc of 4.2K and the search for room-temperature superconductors has been on ever since. Room-temperature superconductivity would help considerably improve the efficiency of electrical generators and transmission lines, as well simplify current applications of superconductivity, such as superconducting magnets in particle accelerators.