British researchers say they’ve developed a new material that could help lead to more efficient electricity transmission with less energy loss.
Scientists at the University of Liverpool and Durham University created the material from a football-shaped molecule called carbon60. They then used the material to study how superconductors might conduct electricity at temperatures suitable for commercial use.
While superconductors are already widely used in applications such as magnetic resonance imaging and magnetic train lines, they’re designed to function at high temperatures. Researchers are still working to understand how such superconductors could be made to operate effectively at room temperature.
The British research team discovered some insights after manipulating the carbon60-based material.
“At room pressure the electrons in the material were too far apart to super-conduct and so we ‘squeezed’ them together using equipment that increases the pressure inside the structure,” said Durham University’s Kosmas Prassides. “We found that the change in the material was instantaneous — altering from a non-conductor to a superconductor. This allowed us to see the exact atomic structure at the point at which superconductivity occurred.”