The Quantum Pontiff

Room Temperature?

Dear Digg, no, this article and press release do not mean that Scientists Invent Room Temperature Superconducting Material. It means that scientists have put molecular silane under hundreds of giga-Pascals presures (for comparison, atmospheric pressure is 100 kilo-Pascals) at a temperature of around 20 Kelvin, and gotten it to superconduct. While this is certainly cool, it is not “room temperature” as far as I can tell.

One day I was driving down the road and listening to AM radio when Paul Harvey came on and did his schtick (“and now you know, the rest of the story.”) At one point in the show, Harvey made a statement that physicists had recently discovered how to get superconductivity at room temperature. I almost drove off the road hearing this and ran home to see if it was true. Unfortunately it was not, and I will never, ever, forgive Paul Harvey for making me think this amazing discovery had been made. And now you know the rest of the…ah, whatever.


  1. #1 Blake Stacey
    March 20, 2008

    I did a summer project in the Francis Bitter Magnet Lab, over on the east side of MIT, the better part of a decade ago. Scotch-taped to a door was a photograph of two men standing knee-deep in billowing clouds, working on some piece of laboratory equipment. The caption read, “Prof. Foner and assistant achieve room temperature superconductivity by filling room with liquid nitrogen.”

  2. #2 laserboy
    March 21, 2008

    The claim comes from extrapolating 5 data points in a Tc Vs Pressure graph. It looks like Tc increases rapidly in the 100-125 GPa region. Unfortunately, I can’t imagine the sort of pressure control you would need to maintain superconductivity at liquid nitrogen temperatures, let alone room temperature.

  3. #3 qs
    March 21, 2008

    This is the same joke like about NMR or D-wave quantum computer…

  4. #4 Patrick
    March 26, 2008

    This is not room temperature but still it is quite impressive:

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