xi's moments
Home | Innovation

Debate on world-changing superconductivity lights up social media

By JIANG CHENGLONG | China Daily | Updated: 2023-08-05 07:39


A heated discussion on room-temperature superconducting has been storming Chinese social media, as a video duplicating the finding of South Korean physicists, who claimed they created a kind of new material that could change the world, has gathered nearly 10 million views on video site Bilibili within two days.

The video was confirmed to be released by a team of researchers from Huazhong University of Science and Technology on Tuesday.

The uploader claimed in the video's description that the team successfully duplicated the LK-99 crystal — the "superconductor" developed by the South Korean researchers.

The university declined to comment on the video by its research team.

Superconductivity is a set of physical properties observed in certain materials where electrical resistance vanishes and magnetic flux fields are expelled from the material.

On July 22, a team of South Korean physicists uploaded two papers on the open-access repository of electronic preprints arXiv, and claimed they were able to synthesize the world's first superconductor able to conduct electricity at room temperature and ambient pressure from a lead-based material known as LK-99.

However, neither of them has been peer-reviewed and published by a journal yet.

The papers soon went viral and attracted broad global attention as well as a large number of skeptics. Many doubted that LK-99 met the properties of a room-temperature superconductor.

According to magazine New Scientist, Ji-Hoon Kim, co-author of the papers, said one of the papers contains "many defects" and was uploaded to arXiv without his permission.

But the heated discussions on superconductivity have lasted for several days on Chinese social media, as the hashtag #RoomTempSuperconductivity has been viewed 110 million times with more than 100,000 interactions on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo since the South Korean paper's release.

Many debated the South Korean discovery, while hundreds of thousands of Bilibili users commented that their daily life could be totally changed by the room-temperature superconductivity after watching the duplicate video by Chinese university researchers.

The magic of room-temp superconductivity

Xu Qingjin, a researcher at the Institute of High Energy Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that if room-temperature superconductivity could truly be achieved, its impact would be enormous.

"It could have a disruptive effect on any aspect of society that involves electricity and magnetism," he said.

First, room-temperature superconductivity would affect people's daily lives, such as transportation, according to Xu.

"We could completely realize a low-cost magnetic levitation system, where our cars would no longer have wheels and could drive by levitating," he said.

The expert also mentioned that, in terms of electricity consumption, if room-temperature superconductivity becomes a reality, all the power transmission lines will be replaced with superconducting materials, greatly reducing power loss.

"The cost of electricity for everyone would also significantly decrease, and residential electricity prices could potentially be reduced to one-tenth of the current prices," he said.

In addition, the disruptive impact of room-temperature superconductivity would not only be limited to daily life, but also in various aspects of fundamental scientific development, including large-scale scientific facilities.

"The current-carrying capacity of superconducting materials can be 100 or even 1,000 times stronger than that of copper cables, so this would easily generate stronger magnetic fields," said Xu, an expert on high-field superconducting magnets.

"Therefore, that would greatly benefit current large-scale scientific facilities, such as nuclear fusion devices and particle accelerators," he noted, adding that the stronger the magnetic field, the greater the performance of those facilities.

"So, by utilizing room-temperature superconducting materials, we can achieve nuclear fusion power generation and higher-energy particle collisions with very low costs."

However, the expert also pointed out that there's still a long way to go to achieve room-temperature superconductivity since it's "truly too idealistic" and therefore very difficult to achieve, based on the arduous research experience of the scientific community over the past century.

"To achieve a superconducting state, we currently either need to cool down or apply pressure," he noted. "Nowadays, the highest critical temperature for achieving superconductivity at ambient pressure is around 160 Kelvin, which is equivalent to about — 113 degrees Celsius."

Currently, scientists worldwide are striving toward the goal of room temperature and ambient pressure, relying on their own experience to continuously experiment with different element compositions in order to find room-temperature superconducting materials, Xu explained.

"That's exactly the difficulty — so far there is no successful theory to guide the discovery of these materials, so scientists can only rely on repeated experiments and continuous trial and error, much like finding a needle in a haystack," he said.

However, the expert also said that although achieving room-temperature superconductivity is still far from reality for humanity, he was still pleasantly surprised by the unexpectedly great attention this technology has received from Chinese internet users.

Although much of the public attention this time involves hype and even exaggeration of the facts, at least it is a process of scientific popularization, Xu said.

"Of course, I am very pleased that many people have paid a lot of attention to such a scientific topic like superconductivity. It is very gratifying."

Global Edition
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349