Researchers claim to at last developed the holy grail of electronics-- a room temperature superconductor using common compounds
Early this year, DailyTech
ran a special on the progress made in superconducting materials
. Perhaps the most important breakthrough in superconducting yet
was just achieved by a team of Canadian and German researchers. The team developed a superconducting compound, composed of hydrogen and silicon, two abundant elements, that requires no cooling.
The key to the room temperature superconductor, long thought to be a virtually unobtainable holy grail of electronics, was pressure. The new material substitutes super cooling for super pressure, which in some materials, can have equally powerful effects inducing superconductivity. Researchers claim that the new material needs no cooling and could be used to create room temperature superconducting wires. Professor John Tse of the University of Saskatchewan remarked, "If you put hydrogen compounds under enough pressure, you can get superconductivity. These new superconductors can be operated at higher temperatures, perhaps without a refrigerant."
Tse accomplished the development of theoretical side of the work with the help of doctoral candidate Yansun Yao. The work was experimentally confirmed by researcher Mikhail Eremets at the Max Planck Institute in Germany.
The new superconductor is part of a class of compounds known as "silanes". These compounds are silicon analogs of methane
, with a Si atom in place of the C atom and four hydrogen atoms attached. This type of compound is also known as a hydride as it has a high hydrogen concentration. Hydrogen is extremely difficult to compress.
For years, researchers speculated that superconductivity at room temperature might be achievable if hydrogen was properly compressed, but past attempts to compress hydrogen to the necessary level were met with failure. The Canadian and German team states that the key to their success where others have failed is bonding the hydrogen to silicon, which aids in compression.
Tse's team now is hard at work further characterizing the silane compound's conductive properties and those of other promising hydrides, using the Canadian Light Source synchrotron. They hope the results can be applied to many industrial applications including wiring for supercomputers. They also see the process as possibly valuable to the hydrogen storage market for fuel cells
The German and Canadian teams were funded by the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canada Research Chairs program, the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Max Planck Institute.