‘Tantalizing’ hints of room-temperature superconductivity

September 19, 2012

Scanning tunneling microscope image of graphite surface atoms (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Doped graphite may superconduct at more than 100 ºC (boiling point of water), according to Pablo Esquinazi and his colleagues at the University of Leipzig, Nature News reports.

Superconductors offer huge potential energy savings when used for electrical power transmission lines, for example, but until now have worked only at temperatures lower than about -110 °C. A superconductor can transmit electricity with zero resistance. At high temperatures (room temperature and above), superconductors promise to offer a major solution

Graphite, which consists of layers of carbon atoms arranged in hexagonal lattices, can superconduct when doped with elements that provide it with additional free electrons. Calcium graphite, for example, superconducts at up to 11.5 kelvin (about -260 °C), and theorists have predicted that temperatures of up to 60 kelvin could be reached if enough free electrons were available.

Researchers in Germany recently also claimed a breakthrough at room temperature and above.