We waited days before sharing this news that made a lot of noise in the scientific world. It may be that it comes from Wuhan and automatically suggests caution, but the truth is that we are talking about a huge thing that could change the course of superconducting science. The hotly debated LK-99 crystal appears to levitate in room temperature conditions.
We hesitated, yes, because the tam tom left open the possibility that it was a simple boutade. However, now that the Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) reiterated its findings, strengthening its position, we decided to join the coverage of this news that could represent an incredible breakthrough in the field. Even if the doubts remain. Let's talk about.
LK-99, a discovery that can change everything
While the world was busy with wars, disasters and squabbles, a small team of Chinese researchers may have opened the door to a future that many believed was still far away. Room temperature magnetic levitation, a concept that seemed to belong to the realm of science fiction, could soon become a tangible reality thanks to the LK-99 crystal.
LK-99 is not just any crystal. Recently, Sukbae Lee and his team had reported surprising experimental results regarding the atmospheric superconductivity of this modified lead apatite crystal. However, it is the team of Huazhong University of Science and Technology who tested and synthesized LK-99 to magnetically levitate it to a greater degree than Sukbae Lee's sample.
But how does it work?
The magic behind this discovery lies in the levitation diamagnetic. As a ferromagnet approaches the sample, the sample rises and positions itself perpendicular to the base. As the magnet moves away, the sample falls back onto the substrate. It may seem like a simple phenomenon, but the implications are profound.
The research team just published a preprint paper in Arxiv (I link it here) in which he reiterates the success of LK-99 and magnetic levitation at room temperature. And at this point the enthusiasm around this discovery has become palpable.
One step forward, but with caution
Ok, fine: we thought it was a possible hoax, and now we find ourselves (whatever it goes) with news. Nonetheless, even after this paper it is essential to maintain a cautious approach. Science is a field in which verification and the reproducibility of an experiment are fundamental. The HUST team showed that LK-99 has incredible potential. But like any great discovery, it's essential to proceed with caution and wait for further verification.
However, if these results are confirmed, we could be at the dawn of a new era in superconducting science. We cannot avoid asking ourselves a question.
What if LK-99 really is the key to the era of room temperature superconductivity?
Room-temperature magnetic levitation, if built and applied on a large scale, could revolutionize several industries. To name 3:
- Futuristic Transportation: One of the best-known examples of magnetic levitation is the maglev train, which uses magnets to levitate above the tracks, eliminating friction and allowing very high speeds. Today, maglev trains require cooled electromagnets to operate, but with room-temperature superconductivity, we could see efficient, inexpensive, and widespread maglevs around the world.
- Storage and Handling of Goods: In industrial and warehouse environments, magnetic levitation could be used to move heavy or delicate goods without physical contact, reducing wear, damage and friction. This could revolutionize logistics, making the handling of goods more efficient and safer.
- Medical applications: Magnetic levitation could find applications in medicine, for example in creating advanced medical devices such as artificial hearts with no moving parts that reduce wear and tear and the risk of failure. Furthermore, it could be used in surgical procedures to manipulate tools or substances without physical contact, offering unprecedented precision.
These are just some of the potential applications. The reality is that LK-99 and room temperature superconductivity could open the door to innovations that we cannot even imagine today.
And yet, from today we no longer forbid ourselves to dream.
Update as of August 6, 2023
So far, 11 attempts to replicate the results of this study have been announced, from as many scientific institutions. 7 of these have already declared results. Of these 7, 3 found properties similar to those claimed for LK-99, but not superconductivity. The remaining 4 observed neither magnetism nor superconductivity.