The most super superconductor of them all

Imagine this: A future where your phone battery is so good that you never have to get through the day on a 10% charge again.

What happened: A group of scientists claim to have produced the first commercially viable superconductor, per Nature. A superconductor transmits electricity without any energy loss, which blows away standard metals that are used to conduct electricity, like copper. 

  • Superconductors have shown immense promise but are impractical because they require environments with super-subzero temperatures and intense pressure.

  • The group claims their new superconducting material (dubbed “reddmatter”) works at room temperature and shows promise of working at normal atmospheric pressure.

Why it matters: A reproducible superconductor that can operate outside of an industrial freezer is a big deal. Potential use cases touch everything from long-lasting phone batteries and next-gen electric vehicle batteries to more efficient power grids and nuclear fusion. 

  • To create reddmatter, the team mixed a cocktail of nitrogen and a rare-earth metal called lutetium, pressed it between two diamonds, and then blasted it with a laser.

Yes, but: The team’s work has come under fire. Data from one of their previous studies was questioned, and other researchers couldn’t replicate the results. Even if the science checks out, any process involving lasers and one of the rarest and priciest rare-earth metals will likely need tweaking before it can be scaled up. 

What’s next: One co-author told The WSJ, “We will have devices with superconducting components in them in the next five years.” Wow, wish we had that kind of confidence.