Superconductor, super-controversy

In the world of science, just like in infomercials, if something seems too good to be true, there’s a good chance it is. 

Driving the news: Some scientists are sounding the alarm over fishy details and inconsistencies in research papers published by a South Korean team claiming the discovery of a room-temperature ambient-pressure superconductor, per Scientific American

Why it matters: Superconductors work in below-zero and intense pressure environments, so a material that could conduct electricity under everyday conditions would be a game changer, enhancing nuclear fusion, power grids, batteries, quantum computers, and more. 

That’s if they are, you know, actually possible

The team’s papers have not completed the peer-review process, but it’s worth noting superconductors have a long history of being tied to over-hyped claims and questionable studies—leaving scientists more skeptical than Agent Scully talking to Agent Mulder. 

  • This year, another research group said they had devised a commercially viable superconductor, but many scientists have cast serious doubt on their claims. 

  • One of the lead researchers previously had his paper on the subject retracted. Sure enough, another one of his papers is set to be retracted for data fabrication.

Bottom line: Future studies will try to replicate these findings and will let us know if we can start celebrating an era of always-charged phones, or if it’s back to the drawing board.—QH