Before it can power our devices, an electrical current has a long distance to travel, and the cables that carry it do a decent job, but are not perfect as they have some resistance. Superconductors however have no resistance and can conduct a current without any loss, so researchers around the world are trying to understand how this is possible, to then apply them to power grids. A team of researchers, led by those at Washington State University, have recently discovered a new superconductor that may shed some light on how they operate.
Something common to all superconductors is the need for low temperatures; sometimes temperatures barely above absolute zero. At this energy level, the material will transition into a superconducting state, but exactly what happens can vary from material to material. In the case of carbon disulfide, a solvent the researchers were working with, at 6.5 K and a pressure of 500,000 atmospheres, the molecular structure rearranges itself to vibrate, allowing electrons to travel without resistance.
While such a low temperature and high pressure would make carbon disulfide useless for technology, its potential is in what we can learn from it. Further study of this unconventional superconductor could lead to the discovery of others, which may operate at room temperature and pressure.