IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


3rd August, 2023 Science and Technology

Disclaimer: Copyright infringement not intended.


  • Recent claims by South Korean researchers of a lead-based compound showing superconductive properties at room temperature have sparked excitement and skepticism in the scientific community.


  • Existing superconductors operate at extreme low temperatures, limiting their widespread application.

Superconductivity Explained

  • Superconductivity occurs when materials offer negligible resistance to electric current.
  • Resistance in electrical conductivity leads to energy losses and heat generation in appliances.
  • Eliminating resistance can lead to more efficient appliances and systems like MRI machines and Maglev trains.

Current Limitations

  • Superconductivity is achieved only at extremely low temperatures, close to absolute zero.
  • Materials like Mercury, Lead, Aluminum, Tin, and Niobium become superconducting at very low temperatures.
  • Some materials exhibit superconductivity at higher temperatures under increased pressure conditions.

The Quest for Room-Temperature Superconductors

  • Scientists seek a material showing superconductivity at room temperature and normal pressure conditions.
  • Many past claims of room-temperature superconductivity have faced scrutiny and skepticism.
  • The South Korean researchers' claim needs more supporting data to be convincing.

Potential Impact of Room-Temperature Superconductors

  • Revolutionize technology: Super-efficient appliances, energy transmission, and storage systems.
  • Impactful scientific discovery: A Nobel Prize-worthy breakthrough with wide-ranging applications.
  • Practical applications: MRI machines, Maglev trains, and many other critical technologies can benefit.

Introduction to Superconductivity

  • Definition: Superconductivity is the ability of certain materials to conduct electric current with zero resistance when cooled below a critical temperature.
  • History: Superconductivity was first observed by Heike Kamerlingh Onnes in 1911 when he cooled mercury to extremely low temperatures.
  • Critical Temperature: Each superconducting material has a specific critical temperature below which it exhibits superconductivity.

Phenomena and Properties

  • Zero Resistance: Superconductors have zero electrical resistance, leading to the lossless flow of electric current.
  • Meissner Effect: Superconductors expel magnetic fields from their interior when they transition into the superconducting state, resulting in the levitation of magnets above them.
  • Persistent Currents: Superconducting loops can maintain current flow indefinitely once established, as there is no energy dissipation due to resistance.

Types of Superconductors

  • Type I Superconductors: They exhibit a sudden transition from normal to superconducting state at the critical temperature. Examples include lead and mercury.
  • Type II Superconductors: They have a mixed state with both normal and superconducting regions below the critical temperature. Examples include niobium-titanium and yttrium-barium-copper-oxide (YBCO).

Applications of Superconductors

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): Superconducting magnets are used in MRI machines, providing high-resolution images for medical diagnostics.
  • Particle Accelerators: Superconducting magnets are essential components of particle accelerators like the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
  • Magnetic Levitation (Maglev) Trains: Superconducting materials enable frictionless movement of trains, reducing energy consumption and increasing speed.
  • Electricity Transmission: Superconducting power cables can carry electricity with minimal loss, improving efficiency in power distribution.

Challenges and Limitations

  • High Cooling Costs: Many superconducting materials require extremely low temperatures to maintain the superconducting state, which can be costly.
  • Fabrication and Material Challenges: Some high-temperature superconductors are difficult to fabricate in large quantities.
  • Magnetic Field Limitations: Strong magnetic fields can sometimes suppress superconductivity.

Current Research and Developments

  • High-Temperature Superconductors (HTS): Research is ongoing to discover and develop superconducting materials that can operate at higher temperatures, making them more practical for various applications.
  • Quantum Computing: Superconducting circuits are used in quantum computing due to their ability to represent qubits effectively.

Economic and Environmental Implications

  • The adoption of superconducting technologies can lead to significant energy savings, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impact.
  • The superconducting industry has the potential to stimulate economic growth through technological innovation and the development of new applications.

Future Prospects

  • The discovery of new superconducting materials and the advancement of existing ones may revolutionize various technologies and industries, enhancing their efficiency and performance.


The discovery of a room-temperature superconductor could revolutionize technology and lead to significant advancements in various fields. While skepticism remains due to past claims, the potential benefits are immense, making it a sought-after and groundbreaking scientific endeavor.




Q. Discuss the significance of the possible discovery of a room-temperature superconductor on technology and its potential impact on various sectors. (250 Words)