An international team of scientists has announced the discovery of a new state of matter in a material that appears to be an insulator, superconductor, metal and magnet all rolled into one, saying that it could lead to the development of more effective high-temperature superconductors.
A superconductor is like a conductor in that it efficiently transports an electric charge. But conducting materials, like copper and aluminum, have some resistance to the flow of electrons, and this resistance costs energy, which in-turn hinders efficiency and costs money.
What makes superconductors so super is that they have absolutely zero resistance to the flow of electrons, which could, in theory, create incredibly efficient electrical devices.
But there’s a major catch: Dozens of materials exist that have superconducting ability, but you have to chill them down to excruciatingly cold temperatures – below -162 degrees Fahrenheit – to tease it out.
Why these materials only adopt superconductivity capabilities at such low-temperatures is a complete mystery. One thing, however, is certain: The amount of energy it takes to chill them costs more than the energy we’re currently losing over less-efficient conductors, making them completely impractical for industrial use at the moment.
That’s where Jahn Teller metals could play an important role: The team’s discovery is the first time anyone has ever witnessed the Jahn Teller effect – the change from an insulator to a conductor – in action. By studying how this process works, scientists can better understand the effect and apply it to possibly produce higher temperature superconductors that don’t need to be chilled to such low temperatures.