(News Focus) Global Interest Aroused by Korean Scientists’ Claim of Superconductor Creation


By Kim Boram

SEOUL, Aug. 3 (Yonhap) — A group of South Korean researchers’ statement of a potential room-temperature, ambient-pressure superconductor breakthrough has provoked a discussion regarding its accuracy, with worldwide attention.

Scientists from the Quantum Energy Research Centre Inc., including Lee Suk-bae, Kim Hyun-tak and Kwon Young-wan, posted two papers on the online preprint repository, arXiv, on July 22, asserting the development of a room-temperature superconductor.

Self-archived papers on arXiv have not been peer-reviewed or academically validated.

This image, taken from a YouTube video by professor Kim Hyun-tak, shows a superconductor. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Superconductors are among the most desired materials by science and technology researchers, through which electricity can move without encountering any resistance.

The production of a room-temperature semiconductor would significantly reduce the energy costs of electronics, with a plethora of everyday applications, from MRI machines to superfast maglev trains.

But their application is limited due to the fact that superconductivity can mainly only be attained at very cold temperatures or high pressures.

Scientists are attempting to create superconductors that work at higher temperatures and lower pressures, which would revolutionize energy transport and storage without loss of energy.

This image shows part of a paper that researchers at Quantum Energy Research Centre Inc. posted on arXiv. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

In the two papers, the South Korean researchers claimed they have created a material, called LK-99, which functions as a superconductor at ambient pressure and temperatures below 400 K, or 127 C.

Their announcement was widely shared by the scientific community, both domestically and internationally, and it went viral on social media platforms the following week.

However, the academic community has remained skeptical about the validity of LK-99, a well-above room-temperature superconducting material at ambient pressure, as some foreign researchers have failed to create perfectly verified superconductors that have passed scientific scrutiny.

In a report released July 27, the American peer-reviewed academic journal Science said the Korean research team’s papers “are short on detail and have left many physicists skeptical.”

It said researchers at Argonne National Laboratory have started to test the two papers’ claims, and they will release the test results within a week.

In Korea, the Korean Society of Superconductivity and Cryogenics also took action, forming a verification committee to scientifically assess the experiment on the room-temperature superconductor papers.

One of the papers’ authors again claimed that LK-99 is a superconductor.

“This can only be explained by the phenomenon of superconductivity,” Kim Hyun-tak, who studies at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, said in an email interview with Yonhap News Agency on Thursday. “I think the validation is already done, regarding data and others.”

At the same time, the study has caused a surge in Korean technology stocks over the past week.

On Wednesday alone, metal-processing firms like Seowon Co., Sunam Co., Power Logics and Shinsung Delta Tech Co. jumped by their 30 percent daily limits on the Seoul bourses, far outperforming the main KOSPI’s 1.9 percent drop amid the U.S. credit rating downgrade.


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