Groundbreaking new superconductor works at the warmest temperature yet

hydrogen sulphide superconductor 2015
Superconductors — that is, materials that conduct electricity with absolutely zero resistance — hold great promise for the future of electronics. But there’s a problem that’s holding us back from realizing their full potential. Currently, all of the superconductors we’ve developed require extremely low temperatures to work — temperatures so low that they don’t occur naturally on Earth.

But scientists are making progress. According to a study recently published in Nature, a group of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany successfully created a material that exhibits superconductivity at -70 degrees Celsius. That’s still pretty chilly by most people’s standards, but it’s also a new record for superconductive materials. The previous record was a full 40 degrees colder at -110 degrees Celsius.

To achieve such groundbreakingly high temperatures, the researchers had to develop an exotic new material — sort of. They used a naturally occurring compound known as hydrogen sulphide (H2S) to make the superconductive material, but the thing is, they didn’t use it in its natural state. Normally, H2S is a colorless gas that smells like rotten eggs; but when you chill it and hold it under immense pressure, it can be transformed into a solid metal — which is exactly what the researchers did.

Pressurizing hydrogen sulphide to this point was quite a feat in itself. In order to transform it into a solid, the researchers had to use a crazy contraption known as a “diamond anvil” to squeeze and compress a tiny amount of the gas to over 1.6 million times atmospheric pressure. Only then did the material begin to exhibit superconductive qualities.

Scientists still aren’t sure why hydrogen sulphide makes such a good superconductor. Right now the best theory seems to be that the phenomenon has something to do with the material’s hydrogen ions, which help electrons form so-called Cooper pairs – a configuration that allows current to travel more swiftly through a material.

It may not be the room-temperature “holy grail” superconductor that scientists have been looking for, but even so, superconductive H2S is a huge step forward for physics.

Emerging Tech

Global Good wants to rid the world of deadly diseases with lasers and A.I.

Global Good, a collaboration between Intellectual Ventures and Bill Gates, aims to eradicate diseases that kill children in developing nations. It tackles difficult problems with high-tech prototypes.
Emerging Tech

Chandra X-ray telescope uncovers evidence of the universe’s missing matter

Where is all of the matter in the universe? NASA's Chandra telescope has uncovered evidence of hot gas strands in the vicinity of a quasar which could explain the missing third of matter which has puzzled astronomers for years.

The best heated gloves keep your hands toasty warm in all temperatures

When temperatures plunge, the first thing that gets cold are your fingers. Ward off frostbite and keep your digits toasty warm with these best heated gloves.
Emerging Tech

Groundbreaking new technique can turn plastic waste into energy-dense fuel

The world has a waste plastic problem. Chemists from Purdue University have a potentially game changing solution: They want to turn it into a gasoline or diesel-like fuel. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

Statistician raises red flag about reliability of machine learning techniques

Machine learning is everywhere in science and technology. But how reliable are these techniques really? A statistician argues that questions of accuracy and reproducibility of machine learning have not been fully addressed.
Emerging Tech

Wish you could fly? You totally can with these top-of-the-line drones

In just the past few years, drones have transformed from a geeky hobbyist affair to a full-on cultural phenomenon. Here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now, no matter what kind of flying you plan to do.
Emerging Tech

Here’s how Facebook taught its Portal A.I. to think like a Hollywood filmmaker

When Facebook introduced its Portal screen-enhanced smart speakers, it wanted to find a way to make video chat as intimate as sitting down for a conversation with a friend. Here's how it did it.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s space observatory will map the sky with unprecedented detail

NASA is preparing to launch a cutting-edge space observatory to create the most detailed map ever produced of the sky. Doing so will involve surveying hundreds of millions of galaxies. Here's how it plans to do it.
Smart Home

No strings attached: This levitating lamp uses science to defy gravity

Now on Kickstarter, the Levia lamp is a cool industrial-looking lamp which boasts a levitating bulb. Looking for a table light that will dazzle visitors? You've come to the right place.
Emerging Tech

The Great White Shark’s genome has been decoded, and it could help us end cancer

In a significant step for marine and genetic science, researchers have decoded the genome of the great white shark. The genetic code revealed a wealth of insight into what makes these creatures so successful from an evolutionary standpoint.
Emerging Tech

‘Guerrilla rainstorm’ warning system aims to prevent soakings, or worse

Japanese researchers have created a "guerrilla rainstorm" early-warning system aimed at preventing severe soakings, or worse. The team hopes to launch the system before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Barbie’s Corvette ain’t got nothing on Sphero’s fully programmable robot car

Sphero is known for devices like the Sphero Bolt and BB-8 Star Wars toy, but now the company is back with another addition to its lineup -- the Sphero RVR. The RVR is a fully programmable robot car that can be expanding with different…
Emerging Tech

Japanese spacecraft will collect a sample from asteroid Ryugu by shooting at it

The Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa 2 will soon touch down on the asteroid Ryugu, where it will collect a sample by shooting a bullet into the soil. The sample will be returned to Earth in 2020 to learn about the formation of asteroids.
Emerging Tech

Hong Kong’s vision for a smart prison is a full-blown Orwellian nightmare

Hong Kong wants to bring prisons up to date by introducing new location-tracking wristbands for inmates, and a robot arm whose job is to comb through poop on the lookout for contraband.