Is the latest near-room-temperature superconductor legit? Don’t count on it

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If you’re someone who loves an internet hype cycle, good news: There’s a new group of scientists who claim to have discovered a near-room-temperature superconductor.

Yes, again.

People on X (formerly Twitter), Hacker News and all the other places science enthusiasts post are getting worked up about a new material described in a paper that was posted on Tuesday to arXiv, the pre-print server. (It should be noted that most of these people do not appear to be scientists let alone condensed-matter physicists.) In the paper, the Chinese team says the material exhibits one of the properties of superconductors at temperatures as warm as –23°C (–9.4°F). That’s not room temperature, but it’s much easier to maintain than existing high-temperature superconductors, which have to be at around –170°C (–274°F).

If the paper’s results are what they say, that is.

It wouldn’t be the first time people’s hopes were dashed. Last year was a banner year for room-temperature superconductors that weren’t. The one that grabbed the most headlines — LK-99 — dominated the internet for a few weeks over the summer before succumbing to the scientific method. Turns out it was little more than a lead-laced refrigerator magnet. Another one, detailed in a paper co-authored by Ranga Dias and others, made a splash in March only to be subject to a retraction in September.

This new material picks up where LK-99 left off, which isn’t really an auspicious starting point.

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