The possibility of achieving room temperature superconductivity took a tiny step forward with a recent discovery by a team of Penn State physicists and materials scientists.

Layers of molybdenum carbide and molybdenum sulfide allow superconductivity at 50 percent higher temperatures. Image Credit: Elizabeth Flores-Gomez Murray, Penn State. Click image for the largest view.

The surprising discovery involved layering a two-dimensional material called molybdenum sulfide with another material called molybdenum carbide. Molybdenum carbide is a known superconductor – electrons can flow through the material without any resistance. Even the best of metals, such as silver or copper, lose energy through heat. This loss makes long-distance transmission of electricity more costly.

Mauricio Terrones, corresponding author on a paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published this week said, “Superconductivity occurs at very low temperatures, close to absolute zero or 0 Kelvin. The alpha phase of Moly carbide is superconducting at 4 Kelvin.”

When layering metastable phases of molybdenum carbide with molybdenum sulfide, superconductivity occurs at 6 Kelvin, a 50% increase. Although this is not remarkable in itself – other materials have been shown to be superconductive at temperatures as high as 150 Kelvin – it was still an unexpected phenomenon that portends a new method to increase superconductivity at higher temperatures in other superconducting materials.

Susan Sinnott, professor of materials science and engineering and head of the department said, “Calculations using quantum mechanics as implemented within density functional theory assisted in the interpretation of experimental measurements to determine the structure of the buried molybdenum carbide/molybdenum sulfide interfaces. This work is a nice example of the way in which materials synthesis, characterization and modeling can come together to advance the discovery of new material systems with unique properties.”

According to Terrones, “It’s a fundamental discovery, but not one anyone believed would work. We are observing a phenomenon that to the best of our knowledge has never been observed before.”

The team will continue experimenting with superconductive materials with the goal of someday finding materials combinations that can carry energy through the grid with zero resistance.

Here is another example of “thinking outside of the box” yielding impressive results. A simple pairing of similar (albeit quite unique) alloys producing a 50 percent increase is quite a welcome surprise. Perhaps others will take up the mental agility this team has shown and find major increase in their positive results. Thinking outside of the box often seems a bit crazy, but here – again – it paid off in a huge way. Sometimes staying in your box is like volunteering to wear a straight jacket over one’s mind.


1 Comment so far

  1. ฟอร์ด เรนเจอร์ on August 18, 2020 4:41 AM

    Once we could realize transfer energy without resistance, 5G may be little case.

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