April 05 2009 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy Year: General Rating: 3 Hot
Scientists at the University of Liverpool and Durham University have developed a new carbon nanotube material that might evolve as a room temperature superconductor used to transmit electricity with no resistance or energy loss.
The use of football-shaped 'Carbon 60' fullerene molecules, or 'Bucky Balls', could change how we look at the quantum flow of electricity over long distance transmission lines as well as within medical equipment and 'molecular electronics'.
The idea of carbon-based electron transmission was widely promoted by carbon fullerene co-founder Rick Smalley (d. 2005) more than a decade ago as the 'quantum armchair wire'. The UK-based research suggests nanostructured carbon materials could evolve as room temperature superconductors.
Shape Matters: Carbon Buckyballs 'Squeezing' Electrons
Liverpool Professor Matt Rosseinsky explains: "Superconductivity is a phenomenon we are still trying to understand and particularly how it functions at high temperatures. Superconductors have a very complex atomic structure and are full of disorder. We made a material in powder form that was a non-conductor at room temperature and had a much simpler atomic structure, to allow us to control how freely electrons moved and test how we could manipulate the material to super-conduct."
Professor Kosmas Prassides, from Durham University, said: "At room pressure the electrons in the material were too far apart to super-conduct and so we 'squeezed' them together using equipment that increases the pressure inside the structure. We found that the change in the material was instantaneous – altering from a non-conductor to a superconductor. This allowed us to see the exact atomic structure at the point at which superconductivity occurred."
Image Credit: Flickr User 'ghutchis' CC License