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The possibility of achieving room temperature superconductivity took a tiny step forward with a recent discovery by a team of Penn State physicists and materials scientists.

The surprising discovery involved layering a called molybdenum sulfide with another material called molybdenum carbide. Molybdenum carbide is a known superconductor—electrons can flow through the material without any resistance. Even the best of metals, such as silver or copper, lose energy through heat. This loss makes long-distance transmission of electricity more costly.

"Superconductivity occurs at very , close to absolute zero or 0 Kelvin," said Mauricio Terrones, corresponding author on a paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published this week. "The alpha phase of Moly carbide is superconducting at 4 Kelvin."

When layering metastable phases of molybdenum carbide with molybdenum sulfide, superconductivity occurs at 6 Kelvin, a 50% increase. Although this is not remarkable in itself—other materials have been shown to be superconductive at temperatures as high as 150 Kelvin—it was still an unexpected phenomenon that portends a new method to increase superconductivity at higher temperatures in other superconducting materials.

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Category: Science