Pushing the Limits: Wild Experiments Bringing Us Closer to Room Temp Superconductors

Room temperature superconductors are one of science’s white whales – highly sought after, but elusive quarry. In hot pursuit, physicists perform increasingly bold experiments to inch closer to materials that can conduct current without resistance at livable temperatures. Let’s spotlight some key recent efforts and what eyebrow-raising findings they’ve uncovered.

One experimental tactic is squeezing materials in vice-like pressures to force superconductivity. Recently, scientists crushed hydrogen sulfide between two diamonds to subject it to 2 million times atmospheric pressure. Amazingly, it superconducted at -135°F – a balmy temperature by superconductor standards. Researchers hope this high-pressure route could uncover tricks to coax the phenomenon out at everyday conditions.

Separately, scientists optically levitated and slowly cooled an individual nanoparticle of the ceramic material YBCO between lasers to near absolute zero. As it reached an ultracold point, a phenomenon called flux trapping flashed – evidence single particles of this cuprate superconductor material exhibit intrinsic “high-temperature” superconductivity. Studying these building blocks offers clues.

Other inquiries electrify materials with currents, blast them with lasers, or coat them onto surfaces atom by atom to elucidate their exotic behavior. No experimental technique is off limits in the pursuit. Scientists get creative.

For example, researchers recently patterned micron-sized conductive rings out of a copper oxide layer and applied localized electrical pulses. The rings exhibited brief superconductivity at -109°F. Though not room temperature yet, the ability to switch on superconductivity selectively in microscale regions pushes boundaries.

Some rebel theorists even conjecture that standard conductivity equations fail for super-fast pulses across special materials, enabling flickers of room temperature superconductivity. Experiments testing these controversial ideas return conflicting results, but challenge assumptions.

Steadily, evidence mounts that room temperature superconductivity emerges in hydrogen-rich materials at high pressures, structured copper oxides, and precisely fabricated carbon structures. Scientists poke, prod, stress and stretch these compounds in every way imaginable to tease out their secrets.

The results may seem marginal, but represent hard-fought progress. In 1987, researchers hit a record high temperature superconductivity at -225°F and skeptics declared we’d hit a ceiling. In just 30 years, that’s improved by nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit through relentless creativity.

There remains much work to be done – likely requiring development of entirely new experimental techniques. Room temperature superconductivity shatters our normal physical intuitions. So it is forcing scientists to venture into uncharted waters, running bold experiments previous generations wouldn’t have even dreamed up.

But nature shows that room temperature superconductors must be possible. And each outlandish experiment inches us closer toward fabricating those elusive materials. The breakthrough will likely come not from incremental tweaks, but from a radical experiment that zigs where others zagged.

This enviable challenge is inspiring physicists to deploy every technical trick imaginable in the pursuit – from crushing hydrides between gemstones to unleashing custom laser pulses on electron rings. No approach is too unorthodox. Step-by-step, new frontiers unfold.

So keep watching the literature, because reports of some wacky new high-temperature superconductivity experiment may soon grab headlines. Although the finishing line remains distant, it comes into sharper focus with each result. Expect daring experiments to continue grabbing attention en route to room temperature superconductors. The discovery of the century could be right around the bend.