Scientists in South Korea say they have created an astounding room-temperature superconductor.

A team of physicists from South Korea claims to have achieved the seemingly impossible - a room-temperature/ambient-pressure superconducting material. 

This means a substance that can conduct electricity perfectly under everyday conditions, without any resistance or energy loss to heat dissipation. 

The implications of such a find are extraordinary, promising revolutionary changes in electronics and the electricity business, with potential applications ranging from perfectly efficient power grids to levitating trains and commercial fusion reactors.

The pursuit of superconductivity has a long and bumpy history, with numerous big claims falling short of expectations. 

However, the researchers behind the LK-99 compound remain undeterred, even though their work is yet to be peer-reviewed. 

They have shared their two groundbreaking papers on the arXiv preprint server (here and here), sparking both excitement and scepticism within the scientific community.

Superconductivity is a phenomenon that occurs when certain materials, at extremely low temperatures, allow electrons to flow without resistance, creating a frictionless electrical current. 

Traditionally, superconductors required temperatures near absolute zero, making their practical applications difficult and costly. 

However, in 1987, so-called ‘high-temperature’ superconductors were discovered, requiring temperatures cooled by liquid nitrogen. Despite initial enthusiasm, progress was slow, and these materials remained impractical due to their brittleness.

Recent research has focused on hydrogen-based compounds that show superconductivity at relatively warmer temperatures, but they require extreme pressures to maintain the effect. 

The new South Korean claim stands out because they assert that LK-99 achieves superconductivity at temperatures above 400 kelvins (126.85 degrees Celsius) under normal atmospheric conditions.

The researchers describe LK-99 as a compound of lead, copper, phosphorus, and oxygen, and they provide a detailed recipe for its creation. 

They report that LK-99's electrical resistance drops sharply at 378 kelvins (104.95 degrees C) and reaches near-zero levels at 333 kelvins (59.85 degrees C). 

While zero electrical resistance is a hallmark of superconductivity, other tests, like the Meissner effect, are necessary to confirm its authenticity.

The Meissner effect is when a superconductor repels magnetic fields, causing it to levitate above magnets - a key feature indicating genuine superconductivity. The researchers have presented a video showing LK-99 partially levitating, though critics argue that levitation alone is not conclusive proof.

Past disappointments in the field have made scientists cautious about embracing new claims of room-temperature superconductors, especially without thorough peer review. Concerns have been raised about certain details in the South Korean team's papers, prompting demands for replication by independent teams.