A long-sought goal, room-temperature superconductors, may be a step closer to reality thanks to joint research by University of California scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and researcher Yunkyu Bang of Chonnam National University in South Korea.
The scientists have discovered that magnetic fluctuations in plutonium cobalt pentagallium (PuCoGa5) appear to cause the material to become superconductive. Scientists hope this unconventional superconductivity may lead to a new class of superconducting materials that could deliver superconduction at room temperature.
The researchers have evidence of how the magnetic fluctuations, rather than interactions caused by tiny vibrations in the underlying crystal structure of the material, may be responsible for the electron pairing that produces the superconductivity.
Although most superconductivity is observed in materials at temperatures near absolute zero, a few materials exhibit superconductivity at temperatures above 427°F. Even though that temperature is still quite low, PuCoGa5 displays the highest superconducting transition temperature among actinide-based compounds found to date.
Like the old adage, where there's smoke, there's fire. Researchers believe that if one unconventional superconductor material exists, additional materials may have similar characteristics. This new class of magnetically mediated superconductors might span metals to oxides and lead to the ability to synthesize room-temperature superconductors.
Such superconductors could end up as almost lossless power lines. At the microscopic level, they also could form resistance-free interconnects on future VLSI chips.
Los Alamos National Laboratory