Science & Tech

Study revives South Korea Superconductivity claim

A consortium of Chinese and Japanese scientists published discoveries that could show superconductivity in a problematic substance.

What exactly is superconductivity?

  • Superconductivity occurs when a substance has nearly no resistance to the flow of electric current, allowing for energy-efficient electrical appliances and lossless power transmission.
  • Magnetic Behaviour: Superconductors exhibit remarkable behaviour in magnetic fields, allowing technology such as MRI equipment and faster Maglev trains to be developed.

Investigating the Subject Apatite Structure LK-99: 

  • To synthesise LK-99, the Korean team used copper-substituted lead apatite, a phosphate mineral with distinctive tetrahedral patterns.
  • Superconducting qualities: LK-99 exhibited key superconducting qualities, including almost zero resistance to current flow and the rapid appearance of resistance above a critical current threshold.
  • Magnetic Resilience: LK-99 maintained superconductivity in the presence of a magnetic field until a critical threshold was reached.

The Meissner Effect: A Key Superconductivity Indicator

  • The Meissner effect is a phenomena that occurs when materials become superconductors and discharge magnetic fields from their interior.
  • The researchers discovered this behaviour in copper-substituted lead apatite, implying possible superconductivity.

Importance of the Search for Room-Temperature Superconductors 

  • The discovery of a superconducting material at room temperature and pressure (RTP) has enormous scientific and commercial importance.
  • Because of their capacity to transport electricity without loss, RTP superconductors have the potential to revolutionise power transmission, medical diagnostics, computing, and other fields.

Hype and Controversies in Superconductivity Research

  • Past Controversies: The field has undergone various conflicts, including assertions by Ranga Dias and a South Korean research group that were later questioned.
  • The Influence of Hype: The financial potential of RTP superconductors has led to several premature statements and disputes in the scientific community.

Methodology and Results of a New Study

  • Approach: Using modern techniques, the researchers synthesised LK-99 samples and evaluated for indicators of superconductivity beyond the specific claims made by prior investigations.
  • Direct Current Measurements: They performed hysteresis experiments in which they applied and removed a magnetic field to observe the material’s behaviour at different temperatures.

Understanding Superconductor Hysteresis

  • The Meissner effect is only seen with direct current since alternating current would disturb the phenomenon.
  • The study distinguishes between Type I and II superconductors based on how they respond to increased magnetic field strength.

The Study’s Difficulties and Limitations

  • Small Superconducting Components: Because the superconducting parts of the material were small, the critical magnetic field intensity was low.
  • Interference Problems: The presence of cuprous sulphide interfered with X-ray molecular structure analysis.
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