Two scientists at Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, published their research work as a Preprint paper titled ‘Evidence for Superconductivity at Ambient Temperature and Pressure in Nanostructures’. Through this, Pandey and Thapa claim to discover a phenomenon that scientists worldwide have been searching for many decades, in the field of Superconductivity.
Anshu Pandey and his doctoral student Dev Kumar Thapa, from the Solid State and Structural Chemistry Department of IISc, have claimed that they had discovered superconducting behaviour at room temperature and pressure in a nanostructured composite material of silver and gold – formed by embedding silver nanoparticles in a gold matrix.
Nanostructured composite material is a multiphase solid material where one of the phases has one, two or three dimensions of less than 100 nanometers (nm) i.e equal to one billionth (short scale) of a metre (~ 0.000000001 meter).
If validated then this ground-breaking discovery will indeed be important in history of Indian science and as breakthrough as Raman Effect discovered by C. V. Raman and his student K. S. Krishnan, and for which Raman received the Nobel Prize in 1930 to become first Asian and first non-white to receive any Nobel Prize in the sciences.
Professor V.Ramgopal Rao, Director of IIT Delhi, rightly said in a tweet, “I hope this is true. If so, this will be the biggest breakthrough from India since Raman Effect.”
The widespread use of superconductors are restricted beause of the very fact that it operate only at very low temperatures. In the simple elements for instance superconductivity dies out at just 10 Kelvin, or -263 °C.
All superconducting materials discovered so far require them to be cooled down to extreme sub-zero temperatures with liquid helium or liquid nitrogen, making their practical utility for domestic and even most industrial applications difficult. This is where discovery of “Room Temperature Superconductivity” by Pandey and Thapa can open the gate of great possibilities and further research for the technology to be used in everyone’s daily life.
However, despite being extraordinary, this discovery from India is being overlooked by world’s scientific community till on August 9, Brian Skinner, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, uploaded a critique of the work to the arXiv preprints repository, where the IISc preprint was also posted. Skinner pointed out that data in the original paper for two independent sets of measurements, obtained under different experimental conditions, show identical background noise patterns. This is considered highly improbable because such noise is supposed to be random and unpredictable.
This discovery, which is still to be validated, holds a very important part in the field of Superconductors as this can potentially be used to build highly efficient devices and electrical utilities with enormous energy savings across the planet ad thus reducing the carbon footprints.
A superconductor is neither a metal nor an insulator but a state of matter, in which a conductor conducts electricity perfectly, meaning an exactly zero electrical resistance to the flow of electricity . On a microscopic level the electrons in a superconductor behave very differently from those in a normal metal.
Superconductors have already found applications outside the laboratory in technologies such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) in hospitals.
If this discovery from IISc, India get a go-ahead from global science community through a proper independent validation then it will further allow to achieve the goal of easy-to-fashion wires leading to important new technologies therafter for example – devices which use electricity considerably more efficient and consume less power; Transport electricity over long distances without any loss.
The fact that superconductors levitate above a strong magnet also creates possibilities for efficient, ultra-high speed trains that float above a magnetic track, much like Marty McFly’s hoverboard in Back to the Future. Japanese engineers have experimented with replacing the wheels of a train with large superconductors that hold the carriages a few centimetres above the track. The idea works in principle, but suffers from the fact that the trains need to carry expensive tanks of liquid helium with them in order to keep the superconductors cold. Some have proposed giant superconducting cables linking Europe with solar energy farms in North Africa.
Many superconducting technologies will probably remain on the drawing board, or too expensive to implement, unless a room temperature superconductor is discovered. It’s just possible however that the advances made by Kresin’s group might mark a milestone on this journey.