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Top 10 international science stories of 2020

By Wang Yiming
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, January 20, 2021
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# Room-temperature superconductivity achieved for first time

Visitors to the superconductor lab of the Institute of Physics in the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS) in Beijing, May 20, 2017. [Photo/Xinhua]

The first superconductor discovered in 1911 had an extremely low critical temperature, only a few degrees above absolute zero. Ever since this discovery, scientists have dreamt of room-temperature superconductivity.

Superconductors transmit electricity without resistance, allowing current to flow without any energy loss. However, all superconductors previously discovered must be cooled, many of them to very low temperatures, making them impractical for most uses.

In October 2020, a team of American scientists found the first superconductor that operates at room temperature. The material made of carbon, sulfur and hydrogen is superconductive below temperatures of about 15 degrees Celsius.

Hydrogen-rich materials under high pressure have been shown to increase the temperatures at which superconductivity can be demonstrated, to around minus 23 degrees Celsius. The latest work raises the temperature at which a zero-resistance state is achieved to 15 degrees Celsius. This effect is observed in a photochemically synthesized ternary carbonaceous sulfur hydride system at pressures of 267 billion pascals.

While the material superconducts under only high pressures, the breakthrough brings scientists a step closer to realizing a more energy-efficient future.

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