Quest for room-temperature superconductivity warms up

maglev train in Shanghai

HOVERING AT HIGH SPEED  A magnetically levitated, or maglev, train leaves Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport. Superconductors that function at or around room temperature could make speedy trains that don’t make contact with the track more practical and cost-effective.

Alex Needham/Wikimedia Commons

The tantalizing but contentious claim that a material can conduct electrical current without resistance at temperatures as high as –70° Celsius has cleared another hurdle: It’s been published in a peer-reviewed journal. A study published August 17 in Nature provides multiple lines of evidence that pressurized hydrogen sulfide is the highest temperature superconductor ever discovered.

If confirmed by another research group, the finding could lead physicists to similar compounds that effortlessly shuttle current at even higher temperatures. Room-temperature superconductors could propel high-speed trains that levitate over the tracks and eliminate the need to chill magnets in MRI machines. 

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