Though superconductors promise a great many benefits, lossless transmission, heat-less electrical components and more, they're still out of the reach of anyone not working for a well-equipped laboratory. With high temperature superconductors only reaching critical temperature at 185 Kelvin or lower, implementation in any type of consumer market is wildly unrealistic.
But progress is being made. Recently, a group of scientists at the Carnegie Institute of Science and Stanford University discovered that putting superconducting materials under a great deal of pressure, 21 gigapascals at least in this case, can induce a superconducting state even at room temperature. A group of Japanese scientists recently produced a superconducting material that is nearly immune to the effects of magnetism, which in most other materials prevents the superconducting state. Unfortunately, the transition temperature of their material is a very cool 26 Kelvin.
These discoveries may not be enabling a new superconductor infrastructure, but they are giving researchers more information about the mysteries of superconducting itself. Researchers at the National High Magnet Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Florida have made another discovery which will give scientists more data to mull over.
Using a doped copper-oxide material and the Magnet Lab's 45 tesla magnet, the NMFL researchers were able to for the first time get a glimpse at areas of a superconductor never before seen. They were able to see where pockets of doped carriers gather to form Cooper Pairs, one of the basics of superconductivity. Knowing where in the electronic structure these electrons group up may give scientists some insight into the nature of superconducting itself.
Another discovery made via the process NMFL used to peer into the material is that magnetism itself likely still persists even after the transition to a superconducting state. Understanding how this magnetism effects the superconducting state itself, beneficially or not, could also help to develop new materials for research.
It may take years or decades to discover or engineer a room temperature superconducting material. It's possible that it may never happen at all simply due to the unshakable laws of physics. But as more research is poured into the stubbornly secretive state of matter, the odds of developing something very close to it get better. Cities may not be laced with maglev trains next year, but it's not out of the question yet.