May 31, 2019
As reported by Futurism, a patent application for a room-temperature superconductor created by Salvatore Cezar Pais, a scientist for the U.S. Navy, was published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office in late February.
If the device works as described in the patent, the implications could be widespread, triggering radical changes for everything from transportation to healthcare. Further, it could mean the U.S. military is well on its way to achieving one of the most sought-after discoveries in physics – a ‘holy grail’ of sorts.
A superconductor is a material that can conduct electricity and transfer it from point A to point B without losing any energy during the transmission process. Everyday materials such as copper, steel, and water are all well-known conductors of electricity, but they are not classified as superconductors because they will inevitably lose some of the energy they transmit when it travels from point A to point B.
Historically, the problem with superconductors has been the extremely low temperatures at which they must operate. The ‘warmest’ superconductor to date cannot function at temperatures above -70 degrees Celsius. With this potential breakthrough by the U.S. military, a superconductor capable of functioning at room temperature, or 25 degrees Celsius, might be within reach.
This is not the first time someone has claimed to have invented a superconductor that functions at room temperature, though none of these prior claims have actually materialized. If Pais’ invention functions as it should, we can expect significant changes in our daily lives in the years to come. Superconductors have the potential to facilitate everything from the construction of a magnetic levitation train to major breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and healthcare. A superconductor could even enable the transfer of electricity from a renewable energy farm on one end of the continent to another, without losing energy during the cross-continent transmission process.
Needless to say, a superconductor capable of transmitting electricity at room temperature would represent a giant leap forward for science and for everyday life.
Authors: Jaclyn Tilak and Anna Condon