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Lanthanum superhydride materials have been created that superconduct at the kind of temperatures seen on a chilly winter’s day. The George Washington University team, led by Russell Hemley and Maddury Somayazulu, claim to have made LaH10 superconduct at 260K, or -13°C, a record for the least cooling needed. And Mikhail Eremets’ team at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany also claims to have recorded similar high temperature superconductivity in LaH10 at 250K.

Either value contrasts starkly with commercial copper oxide superconductor wires used for electricity distribution, which are cooled to 77K. However, LaH10 will still likely be hard to exploit because experiments are limited to the space between the micrometre-size tips of two diamonds in a diamond anvil cell. Attaining superconductivity requires the diamond anvil cell to exerts pressures of up to 200GPa, two million times that of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Yet, importantly, lanthanum superhydrides continue the move away from discovering new high temperature superconductor materials largely by luck. Instead, scientists including Hemley predicted superconductivity in yttrium and lanthanum superhydrides in July 2017. ‘This combination of theory and experiment – all within the same team – was unique,’ Hemley tells Chemistry World.

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