Move over artificial intelligence, and move over UAPs. There’s a new scientific darling to fawn over: LK-99 and the discovery of the room temperature semiconductor. It may sound like a mouthful, but a discovery of this magnitude is well worth your reading time. If true, the discovery of a room-temperature superconductor stands to redefine the future of technology, making electronics more efficient, robust, and environment-friendly. Today, we’ll teach you about superconductors, introduce you to the headline stealing material known only as LK-99, and explore the contributions of TikTok physicists. The future is now, and a better understanding of this generation shaping breakthrough is only a scroll away.
What is A Superconductor?
A superconductor is a material that can conduct electricity without any resistance, meaning that no energy is lost as heat.1 Imagine wires that never get hot, no matter how much electricity flows through them! This incredible property only happens at very low temperatures, often close to absolute zero.
Room temperature superconductors aim to make this perfect conductivity happen at everyday temperatures, not just in freezing cold labs. Such a breakthrough could revolutionize everything from medical equipment to public transportation by making energy use much more efficient.
Previous Attempts at Developing a Superconductor
Developing a superconductor that functions at or near room temperature has remained elusive for decades. The potential applications are broad and transformative, which is why so many attempts have been made. A few notable examples include:
- High-Temperature Superconductors (HTS): High-temperature superconductors, discovered in the 1980s, brought superconductivity to temperatures as high as -135°C.2 While still far from room temperature, these ceramic materials were a breakthrough, allowing for more feasible cooling solutions than traditional low-temperature superconductors. The applications have extended to medical devices and power transmission.
- Magnesium Diboride (MgB2): In 2001, magnesium diboride (MgB2) was found to superconduct at -234°C, a much higher temperature than expected for a conventional superconductor.3 Its relative simplicity and low cost made it attractive for various commercial applications.
- Hydrogen Sulfide with Carbon (H2S): A promising advance occurred in 2015 when hydrogen sulfide doped with carbon was found to superconduct at -70°C under extremely high pressure.3
- Magic-Angle Twisted Graphene: An exciting development in recent years has been the use of “magic-angle” twisted bilayer graphene. By stacking two layers of graphene at a specific angle, researchers were able to create superconducting properties at relatively high temperatures.
These examples demonstrate the progressive evolution and understanding of superconductivity as researchers continue to push the boundaries of temperature and material science. Though the ultimate goal of a room temperature superconductor remains elusive, each attempt brings new insights, techniques, and possibilities, contributing to the collective knowledge and ambition of achieving what was once considered a distant dream.
LK-99: The Breakthrough Material?
You can thank a trio of Seoul-based researchers for our current superconductor fascination. Their paper, which has yet to be peer reviewed, claims that a material called LK-99 is the room temperature, atmospheric pressure superconductor science has been yearning for.4
Constructed with a combination of lead, apatite, and copper, the efficacy of LK-99 is being tested in labs and homes all over the world. If proven, the discovery could mark a dramatic shift in electronic engineering and could reshape how we use and store electricity forever.
TikTok Takes Leads The Way
It’s rare to associate TikTok, the famous social media platform, with groundbreaking scientific research. However, TikTok’s participation in this quest is neither accidental nor superficial. The platform has an incredibly active scientific community that’s come together to test the LK-99 theory online and in real time. The simplicity of the ingredients and the lofty ambitions of DIY-ers has inspired hobbyists to build and test the materials themselves at home.
Hobbyists aren’t the only ones attempting to replicate the findings. Governments, academic institutions, and multinational corporations are all players in this thrilling race. So, is LK-99 the material we’ve been waiting for? You’ll have to stay tuned in to find out.
The Future Is Electric
The race to build the first-ever room temperature superconductor is heating up. LK-99 has stolen the imaginations of millions of scientists on and off TikTok, which only means good things for hard physics. A room temperature superconductor could redefine energy efficiency for good, and propel humanity into a new era of technological development.
As we stand on the brink of possibly one of the most significant technological breakthroughs of our era, the question is not merely if but when this dream will become reality. The story is still unfolding, and there’s so much more to discover. Engage with this compelling journey, stay up to date, and join the quest to harness the power of the holy grail of physics.