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Scientists Created a Room Temperature Superconductor With Lasers

Illustration for article titled Scientists Created a Room Temperature Superconductor With Lasers

Superconductors are supposed to change the world. The only problem is that all of the materials we've used to produce need to be kept at near absolute zero temperatures in order to be superconducting. (See above.) But now, thanks to high-powered lasers, scientists successfully made a piece of ceramic superconducting at room temperature.

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This is great news. And obviously it's great news with a big caveat. The ceramic only stayed superconducting for a split second. Actually, it was only a few millionths of a millisecond. That's a very, very brief lifespan for our amazing new room temperature superconductor. However, the successful experiment is proof that such a thing is possible.

The researchers say that this breakthrough will not only provide key insight into the still incomplete theory of high-temperature (and room temperature) superconductors. "It could [also] assist materials scientists to develop new superconductors with higher critical temperatures," says Mankowsky who led the research. "And ultimately to reach the dream of a superconductor that operates at room temperature and needs no cooling at all."

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When that day comes, superconductors will transform everything from power grids to transportation. Also, levitation. So much levitation is possible with room temperature superconductors. [Nature]

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DISCUSSION

The LHC uses quite a bit of superconducting cable, enough to reach to the sun and back five times (see their web site). The cables need to use liquid helium, which is colder and more expensive than liquid nitrogen. Room-temperature superconductors would need a lot less cooling, and be much less expensive to operate. (This system also had a major accident in 2008 due to a leak of the helium.)