Hopes Dashed: LK-99 Falls Short Of Room-Temperature Superconductor Glory

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by Tyler Durden
Tuesday, Aug 08, 2023 - 11:45 PM

Less than a week after South Korean researchers claimed in two new papers that they had developed a superconductor that operates at room temperature under standard atmospheric pressure,which would have mind-blowing implications for transmitting electricity with zero resistance at normal temperatures, all hopes have been dashed by an already-skeptical scientific community.

In response to the alleged discovery, several labs got to work recreating the superconductor, known as LK-99. Alas, none of them were a success, IFLScience reports.

"When we are measuring superconductors, the most obvious property of a superconductor is zero resistance," said Professor Susie Speller of the Oxford Centre for Applied Superconductivity, in comments to IFLScience in a previous deep-dive on LK-99. "What you look for is for the material to have some resistance. You cool it down, and suddenly it should lose that resistance, and it should be absolutely zero when it's in the superconducting state. You should see a very clear change in resistance at the temperature where it starts to superconduct."

Beyond electrical resistance, superconductivity reveals itself through other distinctive traits, including a shift in heat capacity at the critical temperature and the transformation from non-magnetic to diamagnetic behavior. However, these telltale signs were glaringly absent in the experiments involving LK-99.

While the development is certainly disappointing, materials science continues to make breakthroughs in superconductivity. New materials are expected to come into the market with revolutionary properties in the next decade or so. They still need to be refrigerated, but using liquid nitrogen as a coolant is not too expensive. Condensing the most abundant gas in the air is as cheap as milk. -IFLScience

"Whilst being room temperature would be fantastic because there's no cooling needed, actually, to get to the temperatures we need to use the materials we've already got is pretty cheap and pretty easy," said Speller.