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"We believe this is now a new era of superconductivity," Russell Hemley, a materials scientist at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., told a crowd of researchers March 4 at the American Physical Society's March meeting.

Images lit up the screen behind him: a schematic of a device for crushing tiny things between the superhard points of opposing diamonds, graphs of temperature and electrical resistance, a glowing ball with a rough, black "X" slashed across its center.

That last image was the embodiment of the new era itself: a tiny sample of lanthanum superhydride (or LaH10) squeezed to pressures similar to those found partway through Earth's core and heated with a laser to temperatures approaching a brisk late-winter day in New England. (That's scalding heat by the standards of superconductivity research, usually conducted in extreme laboratory cold.) Under those conditions, Hemley and his team had found, LaH10 appears to stop resisting the movement of electrons between its atoms. It apparently becomes, as Hemley termed it in his APS talk and in a paper published Jan. 14 in the journal Physical Review Letters, a "room temperature superconductor." [6 Important Elements You've Never Heard Of]

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Category: Science