What if room temperature superconductors were real?


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Hope springs eternal. For decades, there have been claims that researchers have created room-temperature superconductors. The materials promise to conduct an electric current with zero resistance while throwing off powerful magnetic fields. They’re a holy grail of materials science.

Last week, a team from South Korea claimed to have created one — and not just a material that superconducts at ambient temperature, but one that does so at ambient pressure, too. Oh, and it’s made of relatively common materials including lead, phosphorus and copper. The researchers published their findings on a preprint server. While not the gold standard in scientific publishing, it’s a decent first step that allows other experts to vet the claims.

It’s still too early to tell whether their extraordinary claims will hold up, but some preliminary theoretical work suggests that they’re not out of the realm of possibility. Still, many researchers remain skeptical.

But what if the claims were true? Myriad industries would be ripe for upheaval. Here are a few that would stand the most to gain.

Fusion power

If scientists really have discovered a room-temperature superconductor, then last year’s surprise darling technology would be again catapulted into the headlines. The problem with fusion power hasn’t been whether it can be done, but whether it produces more power than the required equipment consumes. The National Ignition Facility’s experiment last winter proved that net-positive fusion power was more than just theoretically possible.

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