In 1911, physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes used liquid helium—whose production method he invented—to cool mercury to a few kelvins, discovering that its electrical resistance dropped to nil. Although mercury was later found to be a “conventional” superconductor, no microscopic theory so far managed to fully explain the metal’s behavior and to predict its critical temperature TC. Now, 111 years after Kamerlingh Onnes’ discovery, theorists have done just that. Their first-principles calculations accurately predict mercury’s TC but also pinpoint theoretical caveats that could inform searches for room-temperature superconductors .
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