LK-99 New superconductor could “normally” win the scientific race to zero electrical resistance
Named “LK-99”, the new room-temperature superconductor could be a ground-breaking discovery in the world of technology. LK-99 is trending heavily on social media platforms like X (formerly Twitter) with DIY videos and opinions. Various news channels and articles are addressing it as the “holy grail of superconductors”. This article explains LK-99, its properties, and the latest buzz around the same.
Superconductors are materials that exhibit zero electrical resistance and infinite conductivity at a temperature below a critical temperature TC and usually high pressures. The current ceases to persist for a whopping 100,000 years inside the superconductor and that too - without any power supply!
The Meissner effect is the theory behind the phenomenon of famous levitating magnets that expel the magnetic field lines penetrating through them. These magnetic fields cannot penetrate superconductors beyond a little length known as “London penetration depth”.
The new superconductor is hotter than the previous ones?
The life of superconductors is not that easy as the temperatures drop to jaw-breaking levels and pressures skyrocket. In order to witness the superconducting properties of a superconductor, the temperatures need to hit rock bottom at several minus hundred degrees.
The superconductors discovered in the late 80s are termed “hot superconductors” even at the temperature of minus 70 °C! It is because the superconductivity was only predicted to exist at temperatures near absolute zero (near 273.15 °C).
In 2018, a chemical known as Lanthanum decahydride was proven to exhibit superconducting properties at -13 °C at high pressure of 200 GPa. Even hydrogen sulfide would behave as a superconductor at -70 °C in a high-pressure phase of 155 GPa. But LK-99, if proven, is far better than these superconductors. The reason is that its critical temperature is on the positive temperature scale.
LK-99: The story of August 2023
When the whole world had eyes on generative AI, the new “hot” superconductor took every headline of August by storm. LK-99 is the abbreviation for Lee-Kim-Kwon-1999, in which Lee, Kim, and Kwon are Korean scientists credited for inventing the superconducting material. The new superconductor is not-so-new but was invented in 1999, hidden from the limelight. The reason for the long battle to gain popularity has been a few rejections, research, legal paperwork, and the personal struggle of the inventors.
Proposed properties of LK-99
- Surprisingly, LK-99 is not a metal but a compound consisting of copper, oxygen, phosphorus, lead, etc.
- LK-99 chemical formula is CuO25P6Pb9
- LK-99 superconducting material is a hexagonal structure that appears to be a black-gray solid in the famous video.
- The strangest property of the LK-99 superconductor is proposed to exhibit a high critical temperature above 126.85 °C!
- LK-99 is said to behave as a superconductor at ambient pressure
- LK-99 shows the transition between metallic structure, insulating properties, and superconductivity at various temperatures
- Some of the reasons for superconductivity stated in the research paper are the displacement of Cu atoms to form fermi bands and the concept of generating a superconducting quantum well (SQW)
- Strong superconductivity theories like BCS, and hole superconductivity support the claims of the inventors
What do the experts say?
Scientists, researchers, engineers, students, and DIY enthusiasts from all across the world are verifying LK-99. An Irish physicist Sinéad Griffin working at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory analyzed LK-99 using density functional theory, stating that it could have a flat-band structure.
Attempts have been made to synthesize LK-99 through different procedures. Some researchers have successfully mimicked the levitating LK-99 at room temperature. But the levitating nature of a superconductor is not all it requires. The main property of the superconductor is to possess zero electrical resistance. However, LK-99 is yet to be confirmed as a superconductor in room temperatures and ambient pressure.
If “yes”, could LK-99 be a road to the futuristic world?
The critical temperature and atmospheric conditions for superconductivity have always been a limiting factor compared to the extensive use of semiconducting materials. The elimination of cooling down the material could make the engineering involved 10x easier.
The slowly-growing market of superconductors valued at USD$5.5 billion is expected to hit a new high. LK-99 could potentially have fourfold applications like supercomputing, electrical grids, and many more.
- Transportation: LK-99 could normalize building MAGLEV trains for super-fast transport. The room-temperature superconductor can revise the project costs depending on demand and supply.
- Particle Accelerators: LK-99 could potentially increase the possibility of more particle collisions in LHC to understand superconductivity and magnetism on a deeper level.
- Medical Imaging: Superconducting property to expel magnetic fields is applicable largely for image processing in medical devices like MRI scans.
- Power Transmission: LK-99 could be a contender for constructing superconducting transmission lines to accelerate the transmission of electricity from renewables such as remote wind or hydroelectric power plants.