Superconductor Claim Labelled ‘Baseless’ By South Korea Experts

Doubts about a breakthrough claim earlier this year by a group of South Korean researchers appear to be justified, after experts were unable to verify or replicate the results.

Reuters noted a South Korean academic group as saying on Wednesday that claims by some researchers in the country that a practical superconductor had been discovered were in fact “baseless”, citing the group’s inability to replicate the results.

On 22 July researchers from the Seoul-based Quantum Energy Research Centre had posted two papers on the online preprint repository, arXiv, claiming they had developed a room-temperature superconductor material.

Room temp superconductor

But doubts were immediately raised, as scientific papers self-archived on arXiv are not peer-reviewed or academically verified.

In August South Korean experts announced they would set up a committee to verify claims that a room temperature superconductor.

The Korean Society of Superconductivity and Cryogenics had asked Quantum Energy Research Centre to submit samples in order to verify its researchers’ findings of a room-temperature superconductor material.

In the two papers, the Korean researchers had claimed they have created a material, dubbed LK-99, which functions as a superconductor at ambient pressure (a holy grail achievement) and temperatures below 127 Celsius.

Superconductors are highly sought-after materials, as electricity can move through it without encountering any resistance.

Unlike an ordinary metallic conductor, whose resistance decreases gradually as its temperature is lowered, even down to near absolute zero, a superconductor has a characteristic critical temperature below which the resistance drops abruptly to zero.

An electric current through a loop of superconducting wire can persist indefinitely with no power source.

However its use is highly restricted as superconductivity can typically only be achieved at very cold temperatures or high pressures.

Scientists are trying to develop superconductors that work at higher temperatures and lower pressures.

Therefore the claim of the creation of a room-temperature superconductor would significantly reduce the energy costs of everyday electronics, including MRI machines, maglev trains etc.

Baseless claim

But it seems that the breakthrough claim by the Quantum Energy Research Centre has not been endorsed by experts from the Korean Society of Superconductivity and Cryogenics, which according to Reuters has published a white paper, with the help of eight local laboratories, on the matter.

In the white paper, the experts reportedly found no cases showing zero resistance or instances of the so-called Meissner effect, when superconducting material repels a magnetic field.

“For the claim that LK-99 is a room-temperature, normal-pressure superconductor to be not just a claim but to be proven scientifically universal, there must be cross-measurement and replication by a third party,” the society was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Attempts by the group to replicate the results failed and Quantum Energy Research Centre, whose researchers were among the authors of the papers, was asked to submit samples in order to verify the findings but did not provide them, the group said, leaving the verification process incomplete.

The authors of superconductor claims did not immediately respond to a request for comment, Reuters noted.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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