Paul van Gerven
15 October

A team of New York researchers has discovered the world’s first room-temperature superconductor. The mysterious compound of hydrogen, carbon and sulfur conducts electricity without any resistance at temperatures up to about 15 degrees Celsius. Admittedly, that’s a pretty chilly room, but at least, it’s well above freezing, which is a first. There is one caveat, though: the newly-found superconductor survives only at extreme pressures.

The superconductor was made between two diamond ‘anvils’. Credit: University of Rochester

Researchers at the University of Rochester made the superconducting material by confining a mixture of hydrogen, carbon and sulfur compounds between the tips of two diamonds. They then set off a chemical reaction using a laser, which resulted in the formation of a crystal. At standard pressure, this material became a superconductor at unremarkable, sub-zero temperatures. But at increasing pressures, the transition occurred at higher and higher temperatures. The best result was 14.55 degrees Celsius at 2.6 million times standard atmospheric pressure.

The nature of the superconductor isn’t quite known yet, but it fits in with a line of research that was initiated in 2015, when the first high-temperature superconductor made up of hydrogen and sulfur was revealed. Since then, many more combinations with hydrogen have been tested, taking the transition temperature to as high as -23 degrees Celsius. The University of Rochester scientists were the first to throw a third element in the mix.