When South Korean scientists reported a potential breakthrough in superconductors in late July, their claims uncorked waves of excitement and skepticism as researchers around the world rushed to replicate the experiments.
Such a superconductor — transmitting electricity with no energy loss at room temperature and ordinary air pressure — is a holy grail of materials science. Dreamers hope for room-temperature superconductors that could maximize the efficiency of our energy grids and supercharge fusion energy production; speed up progress on quantum supercomputers; or help usher in an era of superfast transport.
Right now, though, the story of the LK-99 superconductor is all about what's going on in laboratories.
On July 22, the physicists in South Korea uploaded two papers to arXiv, a repository for preprint research — the kind that has yet to be peer-reviewed and published in a scientific journal. It's basically like uploading a first draft of your work. The researchers claimed they'd produced the first room-temperature superconductor with a "modified lead-apatite structure" doped with copper and dubbed LK-99.
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