May 27, 2019
Here's a hot take! Scientists have indeed taken superconductivity to the highest temperatures yet. I know I'm burning to read the article, what say you?
Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.
*-- Researchers set new mark for highest-temperature superconductor --*
Scientists have demonstrated superconductivity at the highest temperatures yet.
An international team of researchers observed superconductivity at minus-23 degrees Celsius, or minus-9 degrees Fahrenheit -- a new record. The breakthrough, detailed this week in the journal Nature Communications, marks a 50 percent improvement over the previous record.
Until now, superconductivity has only been observed in materials cooled to extremely frigid temperatures, but a new class of materials, superconducting hydrides, promises to make superconductivity possible a warmer temperatures.
Researchers at the University of Chicago and Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany collaborated to create lanthanum superhydride and put the material through a series of tests -- measuring its superconductivity and detailing its structure and composition.
Though the lanthanum superhydride didn't need quite as much supercooling, it did need to be pressurized to demonstrate its superconductivity. Scientists pressurized the new materials by squeezing the tiny sample between a pair of diamonds.
X-ray blasts from the Argonne National Laboratory's Advanced Photon Source allowed scientists to study the new material's structural qualities.
Superconductivity materials demonstrate zero resistance to electrical current and cannot be corrupted by magnetic fields. Lanthanum superhydride showed both qualities at a temperature of negative 23 degrees Celsius.
While still cold, negative 23 degrees Celsius is within the normal range of a few climates on Earth. Eventually, scientists hope to develop materials that are superconductive at room temperature, which could be incorporated into everyday technologies.
Superconductive materials that don't need to be supercooled could be used to create more efficient electrical wires, faster supercomputers and even high-speed magnetic levitation trains.
"Our next goal is to reduce the pressure needed to synthesize samples, to bring the critical temperature closer to ambient, and perhaps even create samples that could be synthesized at high pressures, but still superconduct at normal pressures," Vitali Prakapenka, a research professor at the University of Chicago, said in a news release. "We are continuing to search for new and interesting compounds that will bring us new, and often unexpected, discoveries."
*-- New research shows human cells mimic computer chips --*
Living cells are wired like computer chips, using direct signals to instruct them how to function, but they can also change behavior rapidly -- something chips can't do, new research by the University of Edinburgh suggests.
The cell-wide web discovery deepens scientists' understanding of how instructions spread through the body. The new research found information is carried across a web of guide wires that transmit signals across tiny, nanoscale distances. The movement of charged molecules across the tiny distances that transmit information, similar to how a computer microprocessor works.
"We found that cell function is coordinated by a network of nanotubes, similar to the carbon nanotubes you find in a computer microprocessor," said Professor Mark Evans, of the University of Edinburgh's Center for Discovery Brain Sciences.
"The most striking thing is that this circuit is highly flexible, as this cell-wide web can rapidly reconfigure to deliver different outputs in a manner determined by the information received by and related from the nucleus. This is something no man-made microprocessor or circuit boards are yet capable of achieving," Evans said.
Using high-powered microscopes, scientists were able to observe the wiring network with the help of computing techniques similar to those that allowed astronomers to view a black hole.
These signals tell a muscle cell to relax or contract, for example. When a cell moves from a steady state into a growth phase, the web is reconfigured to transmit signals that switch on the genes need for growth.