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Local News

UNLV Physicists Make Major Breakthroughs On Efficient Energy Technology

Credit: iStock

Anzhe Zhang

After first discovering a room-temperature material capable of superconductivity in 2020, University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) physicists have done it again by replicating superconductivity through less strenuous conditions, a promising sign for future everyday applications.

In layman’s terms, the traditional energy grid is powered by metallic cables, which not only loses an estimated $30 billion worth of energy as it transfers electricity, but also creates heat as a byproduct that contributes to climate change. 

Now scientists at UNLV are getting closer to creating a material that could change the way we get our electricity forever.

The breakthrough was first discovered in 2020 when a team of UNLV and other scientists synthesized a superconductive material through extreme high pressure, something they’ve been able to do since at one-third of the initial pressure.

Pressure plays a key part in all this. In short, to achieve superconductivity at room temperature, UNLV scientists had to synthesize materials containing a mix of carbon, sulfur, and hydrogen into a metallic state, which then enters into superconductivity after being put through extreme pressure, the level of which is found only naturally at the center of the earth. The fact that UNLV scientists are able to achieve this superconductive state through less pressure signifies a major breakthrough.

Long since theorized, superconductivity is a phenomenon that’s been observed for over a century, but is only now reaching the point where scientists are capable of harnessing it for practical use. 

It’s a holy grail of energy efficiency that scientists have long chased, as it means energy could be transferred with no net loss of power. 

For Nevada, this could mean an energy boom, as the amount of solar energy able to be harnessed in the state could be transferred to places across the country with zero loss.

Ashkan Salamat, one of the leading UNLV physicists behind the breakthrough, talked about the importance of superconductivity research in face of an energy crisis in the U.S., noting that “the inefficiency of current technology” is accentuating what’s already bad. “For societal change, we need to lead with technology, and the work happening today is, I believe, at the forefront of tomorrow’s solutions.”

“Imagine harnessing energy in Nevada and sending it across the country without any energy loss,” he continued. “This technology could one day make it possible.”