Home A new ‘superconductor’ could change the world

A new ‘superconductor’ could change the world

Aug 7 – The world of material sciences generally doesn’t receive much public spotlight, but after scientific discovery of a new superconductor material, dubbed LK-99, the discipline is receiving Barbenheimer-level attention.

In late July, a group of researchers claimed to have discovered a superconductor that works at normal temperatures and pressure. As with conventional superconductors, this superconductor can conduct electricity without resistance, and crucially, without the need for extremely cold or highly pressurized conditions.

Scientists have wanted to develop this type of material for decades, and the research has been ongoing. In material sciences, finding this type of material is, according to experts, considered a kind of “holy grail.”

LK-99 cautious optimism

Dozens of material sciences teams, and plenty of armchair enthusiasts at-home, are trying to replicate the initial scientists’ findings.

Caution around the hype would be wise, as this field has previously contended with iterative experiments, hype-cycles and false hopes. (For example, a paper that was published in the journal Nature, and which made similar claims about a superconductor in 2020, was retracted last year.)

However, the implications of this development in material sciences would be profound…

LK-99 implications

Scientists and computing experts say that LK-99’s lack of need for extensive cooling and pressurization has implications for quantum computers. In turn, we might be able to accelerate societal advancements – from drug development for deadly diseases to solving climate science and sustainability challenges.

Nearly any technology that relies on electromagnetic processes could be transformed, according to some.

Nothing or something?

At the same time, LK-99 might just be an elusive purple unicorn that winds up being too good to be true. Scientific progress is often slow. Science sees setbacks, errors, and quacks.

That said, if LK-99 ends up being the much-hoped-for material sciences advancement that it appears as, it could change our world.

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