In the period after the discovery of high-temperature superconductors, there wasn’t a good conceptual understanding of why those compounds worked. While there was a burst of progress towards higher temperatures, it quickly ground to a halt, largely because it was fueled by trial and error. Recent years brought a better understanding of the mechanisms that enable superconductivity, and we’re seeing a second burst of rapidly rising temperatures.
Equipment including a diamond anvil cell (blue box) and laser arrays are pictured in the lab of assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering and Physics and Astronomy Ranga Dias in Hopeman Hall August 26, 2020. Dias is studying the potential and applications of room temperature superconductivity in dense hydrogen-rich materials and carbon based materials. (Photo by J. Adam Fenster / University of Rochester)[/ars_img]
The key to the progress has been a new focus on hydrogen-rich compounds, built on the knowledge that hydrogen’s vibrations within a solid help encourage the formation of superconducting electron pairs. By using ultra-high pressures, researchers have been able to force hydrogen into solids that turned out to superconduct at temperatures that could be reached without resorting to liquid nitrogen.