Superconductor breakthrough could clear way for incredibly efficient PCs that don't waste energy

(Image credit: Reddit)

What you need to know

  • Korean researchers showcase their findings highlighting the discovery of a new compound that could be superconductor.
  • The compound is referred to as LK-99.
  • Initial findings have been replicated twice in preliminary testing.
  • A lot of testing is underway to assert the compound's effectiveness and authenticity.

Generative AI has been a huge leap forward for the world this year, as far as technology is concerned. And while people continue to make more advancements in the field, it seems like we're on the verge of yet another breakthrough, the possibility of superconductors.

Essentially, a superconductor is a material that facilitates the flow of electrical current without losing energy when cooled to extreme temperatures. As reported by Tom's Hardware, we might be well on our way to achieving this with a new compound, referred to as LK-99.

If this breakthrough pans out into real-world application, it could result in much more efficient processors. Computers waste a lot of energy generating heat rather than processing power. Superconductor tech would allow computing devices, potentially including PCs, to use energy for processing rather than pushing out heat.

Korean researchers published a paper highlighting their findings with the compound last week. As we speak, many key industry players are heavily invested in these findings and working towards ascertaining the efficiency and effectiveness of this compound.

To this end, two entities have shared their preliminary findings, ascertaining that LK-99 could be groundbreaking. A group of Chinese researchers has video confirmation that LK-99 is the real thing. 

Andrew Cote, a Stellarator Engineer, shared the findings on X, and highlighted the following explanation as the main reason why the Chinese researchers believe LK-99 could serve as a superconductor:

The LK-99 flake slightly levitates for both orientations of the magnetic field, meaning it is not simply a magnetized piece of iron or similar 'magnetic material'. A simple magnetic flake would be attracted to one polarity of the strong magnet, and repelled by the other. A diamagnet would be repelled under either orientation, since it resists and expels all fields regardless of the polarity. 

And while this is an impressive feat, it's impossible to establish the "orientation of the strong magnet" used in the video shared. The research team is yet to disclose the exact values used during this experiment which allowed them to establish the authenticity of the compound. "Diamagnetism is a property of superconductors, but without measured and verified data, this is just suggestive of a result."

The video illustrates the Meissner effect, which showcases LK-99's superconducting capabilities. As a result, the video depicts materials levitating while interacting with the compound. For those unfamiliar with the Meissner effect, it's the expulsion of a magnetic field due to the superconducting process. 

Still, there's still the fact that two entities were able to come to the same results, which means a lot. Admittedly, there's still a lot of testing that needs to be done. But if it turns out to be real, the number of new opportunities and impossibilities that could be unlocked is unimaginable. 

Sinéad Griffin, a Lawrence Berkeley National Lab researcher, has leveraged the supercomputing capabilities within the Department of Energy to simulate the compound. The research achieved this by combining lanarkite (Pb₂SO₅) and copper phosphide (Cu₃P). The 4-day process involves multi-step, small batch, and solid-state synthesis.

Griffin's findings confirmed that LK-99 manifests as a superconductor in its entirety. She also noticed that the superconducting pathways formed in specific compound areas, pinpointing them as the "highest-energy areas." With this in mind, there's a possibility that the compound's development process could be improved, ultimately fostering higher quantities of the material that can be used to develop superconductors.

Unlocking a new world with a superconductor

The importance of power is very apparent. Now, picture this, a world with high-efficiency electric power generation. The number of things that we would be able to do with such kind of power is unimaginable, not to mention the enhanced efficiency and effectiveness of services.

Additonally, we'll finally have enough energy to generate a magnetic field that's able to power an MRI. This translates to anyhting between 3,000 t0 10,000 times the Earth's magnetic field. 

The discovery of a superconductor will also lead to a significant cut in the cost of energy. And while this is still a developing story, it still a great feeling to imagine that we could be on the verge of a new discovery that would literally redefine life as we know it.

Kevin Okemwa

Kevin Okemwa is a seasoned tech journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya with lots of experience covering the latest trends and developments in the industry. With a passion for innovation and a keen eye for detail, he has written for leading publications such as OnMSFT, MakeUseOf, and Windows Report, providing insightful analysis and breaking news on everything revolving around the Microsoft ecosystem. While AFK and not busy following the ever-emerging trends in tech, you can find him exploring the world or listening to music.