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LK-99's Epic Odyssey in Pursuit of Physics' Sacred 'Holy Grail'
If perfected, this changes everything.
A recent scientific breakthrough is on the verge of revolutionizing humanity as we know it. Two teams of scientists based in South Korea have been experimenting with producing a room-temperature ambient pressure superconductor that goes by the name “LK-99.”
The name itself, LK-99, comes from taking the first initial from the last names of the two who first created the material, Sukbae Lee and Ji-hoon Kim, which first happened in 1999. Hence, LK-99.
If they’re successful in the purification of LK-99’s production, it will change everything from the size of quantum computer systems, smaller generators, instantly charged batteries, travel at an unprecedented speed, nuclear fusion reactors, healthcare equipment such as MRIs, and beyond. Things will become much smaller, faster, and cheaper for everyone. Not only that but conflicts driven by resource scarcity and competition across the globe could diminish. The question truly is, would they?
Virologist Adam Gaertner explained:
“If I understand the concepts right, LK-99 is going to absolutely revolutionize every corner of society.
Room-temperature superconductor; it allows current to pass without resistance, contains magnetic fields indefinitely without loss, and blocks external fields from interfering.
We could have batteries of near-infinite, or at least optimal, power density/efficiency. Propulsion systems using the levitation/repulsion properties. Combine them both, and we've got rockets that no longer need rocket fuel. Cars that can casually hover a foot or less off the ground, or fly higher. Cheap and common high speed maglev trains.
Weapons are going to take a whole new direction. Railguns could become much more feasible. Drones, phones, effectively infinite battery life for most purposes.
Power should get far cheaper & more freely available - no more losses to heat in transmission, vastly more efficient storage..
The implications are limitless.”
Yashu Sharma, host of the YouTube channel Hit That Bid noted that Elon Musk had not mentioned the recent findings regarding room-temperature superconductors, pointing out that, “…if anyone can use this for good, it’s Elon.”
WHAT IS CONSIDERED A SUPERCONDUCTOR?
Modern superconductors such as copper oxide, aluminum, and iron pnictides necessitate operating at temperatures below their critical thresholds (typically under -180°C / -292°F). While conducting electrical currents, these materials emit a certain amount of energy during the process. This is the reason why personal computers require fans, and it's also why your phone or tablet can occasionally become warm to the touch - the energy loss is emitted as heat. In contrast, LK-99 aims to achieve nearly negligible energy loss.
Ricky from Two Bit Da Vinci breaks down why perfecting LK-99 is referred to as “The Holy Grail of Physics,” in his July 29, 2023 video LK-99 Superconductor Breakthrough - Why it MATTERS!:
While the endeavor to develop room-temperature superconductors is not novel, numerous researchers striving to refine its fabrication have faced setbacks. Following the release of two significant preprints in late July, a surge of experiments is underway worldwide, as scientists compete to realize the actualization of this superconductor.
After “Consideration for the development of room-temperature ambient-pressure superconductor (LK-99)” was submitted at the end of March and accepted in April, it sat, largely overlooked until several months later. Two essential preprints have since come out via arXiv in a race between teams of scientists from Quantum Energy Research Center in Seoul. "The First Room-Temperature Ambient-Pressure Superconductor" was submitted by Young-Wan Kwon along with Korean University team leader Sukbae Lee, and Ji-Hoon Kim (L&K).
“For the first time in the world, we report the success in synthesizing a room-temperature and ambient-pressure superconductor with a chemical approach to solve the temperature and pressure problem. We named the first room temperature and ambient pressure superconductor LK-99.”
The second was submitted by a former principal researcher at William & Mary, Hyun-Tak Kim, along with five other writers, Sukbae Lee, Ji-Hoon Kim, Sungyeon Im, SooMin An, Keun Ho Auh titled “Superconductor Pb10−xCux(PO4)6O showing levitation at room temperature and atmospheric pressure and mechanism”.
The findings were then submitted for peer review at APL Materials. Both preprints were posted on arXiv a mere hours apart from one another on July 22nd, 2023. The website arXiv functions as an open-access depository for electronic preprints and postprints that are vetted before posting through a moderation process, but without undergoing peer review.
Lee and Kim are the only two listed on the July 2020 patent published in June 2022 “Method of manufacturing ceramic composite with low resistance including superconductors and the composite thereof.”
In 2021 and 2022, Young-wan Kwon has been added to the patents titled “Ceramic composite with superconductivities over room temperature at atmospheric condition and method of manufacturing the ceramic composite,” and “Room-temperature and atmospheric-pressure superconducting ceramic compound and preparation method therefor” respectively.
EXPERIMENTS INTENSIFY AS PROCEDURES AND OUTCOMES ARE SHARED ONLINE
Following the submission of these two papers, scientists from diverse corners of the world have undertaken independent replications, resulting in a wide spectrum of varied results.
On August 3rd, the Department of Condensed Matter Physics || MFF UK shared a detailed account of their attempt to create a purified sample of LK-99 on their Twitter/𝕏 profile, outlining the measures they undertook in their pursuit of refining the experiment.
The next day, they began synthesizing Lanarkite and pressed a mixture of Lead Sulfate (white powder seen below) and Lead Oxide (orange powder) into pellets, then sealed them in quartz tubes.
The pressure reached below 10^-6 mbar inside the tubes after several hours of pumping with a turbomolecular pump. Quartz ampules were then sealed with a torch before going into the furnace.
Eight samples, each possessing distinct ratios, were introduced into the furnace, which had been adjusted to a temperature of 925°C, and subjected to a six-hour heating period.
Early in the morning on the 5th of August, samples were removed from the furnace and the quest to perfect a sample of LK-99 quickly resumed.
Unfortunately, this team admitted to making a mistake with the measurements, mixing much more phosphorous than copper. The team will be attempting the experiment again, with the correct mixture currently in the furnace.
On August the 4th, 2023, Andrew McCalip, an engineer at Varda Space Industries also attempted to replicate the process. The following experiment emerged on Twitter/𝕏, including the video seen below, published by Andrew Cote, engineer and host of The AI Salon.
Cote writes, “Normally in a Type-II superconductor current can flow and be conducted internally in different directions however the magnetic field might induce it, as well as trap or pin magnetic flux lines internally, thus the Meissner effect might be considered the combination of several phenomenon and properties at once.”
WHAT EXACTLY IS THE MEISSNER EFFECT?
When a material reaches an extremely low temperature and transitions into a state where it can conduct electricity without any resistance, it also displays an intriguing interaction with magnets. When you introduce a magnet to this highly cooled material, it generates a repulsive force against the magnetic field it detects. However, if you introduce the magnet after the material has already achieved its profoundly low-temperature state, the magnet's magnetic field is incapable of permeating the material. Essentially, the deeply chilled material establishes a form of shielding that prevents the magnet's influence from penetrating.
One of the most famous displays of the Meissner effect is its capacity to cause a magnet to hover over a superconductor, essentially, levitation or diamagnetism.
Just one day later on August 5th, 2023, the following discovery was made using a highly pure synthesized sample of LK-99 appearing to levitate which Cote shared on Twitter/𝕏.
Cote uses an analogy to explain LK-99s ability to appear as if it’s levitating, “You can think of this like strands of hair being caught in gum - the gum is suspended in mid-air by adhering strongly to the hair as the hair passes through it. The hair in this case is magnetic field lines and the gum is the Type-II superconductor.”
He continued, “Just like hair comes in individual strands, or in other words hair is 'quantized' or 'discrete', so is the flux trapped at the 'pinning centers' quantized in what are called 'magnetic vortices' - the quantization of pinned flux lines is a key property and distinguishing characteristic of Type-II superconductors (although technically can occur in Type-I superconductors if the material thickness is smaller than the London penetration depth, which is indeed very small - specifics for the physics nerds out there).”
Cote included the following video in his post that appears to show a sample of LK-99 fully levitating. “This is the first video I am aware of that claims to show the flux-pinned levitation of a LK-99 sample. If this is in fact what is happening, then it is a very unique and promising finding of the new materials properties and potential for future study.”
“If this is real then it is truly ground-breaking,” Conte added.
The success of LK-99 remains a subject of ongoing discussion, as numerous individuals dedicate relentless efforts towards refining the superconductor. This remarkable innovation possesses the capacity to revolutionize various facets of our daily existence. Such a breakthrough could lead to a profound transformation in society, unveiling a realm of possibilities that we have merely started to conceive.