Superconductor, LK-99, Unidentified Superconducting Object, USO, technology breakthrough

Is LK-99 Just Another ‘Unidentified Superconducting Object’ or a Game Changer?

A mysterious dark greenish compound called LK-99 could potentially change the world. We’re talking Jetsons level stuff. That is if the compound holds up to scientific scrutiny and is indeed a room-temperature superconductor, as scientists from South Korea claim.

Until scientific peer review, it’s not a sure thing and seems too good to be true. But is it? 

“There’s a world of endless possibilities that become possible if you have room-temperature superconducting,” explains Vikram Chandra. “In short, if these claims are correct…I can tell you, remember this week because this will be the week that will have changed the world forever.”

A Holy Grail for scientists has long been discovering such a room-temperature superconductor, but thus far, it’s only been possible under extreme temperatures and pressure. Thus, the use hasn’t been economical, but an answer could be within reach. On the other hand…

Unidentified Superconducting Objects (USOs)

Previous claims about finding a superconductor have led to disappointment and a funny acronym: USOs or unidentified superconducting objects.

“We call them USOs,” said Mike Norman from Argonne National Laboratory. “There’s a long history of USOs going a long way back, including some very famous people who thought they had a superconductor and they didn’t. It’s like anything in science – you can be fooled. Even good people can be fooled.”

LK-99, superconductor, images generated by Dall-e2
Images generated by Dall•e2

LK-99: A Potential Superconductor Recipe

According to WION, LK-99 isn’t made of anything extraordinary: It’s a recipe of powdered compounds such as lead apatite, oxygen, sulfur, and phosphorous. Then, it’s “cooked” at high temperatures for as long as four days, purifying it until it results in the greenish end product.

“The LK-99 material is a compound comprised of lead, oxygen, and phosphorous; the scientists describe in two preprint papers that have yet to be peer-reviewed. They discuss how they doped the material with copper, which, they speculate, may have distorted the chain of lead atoms, creating channels along which the superconductivity occurs, per Science,” reported INSIDER.

LK-99, superconductor
Screenshot via YouTube

Already, one simulation suggests the key is inserting copper atoms into lead apatite, leading to an unusual atomic arrangement. And, Reuters reports, “Other researchers should be able to start getting results as soon as this week.”

Although it may not be as easy as it sounds, the recipe seems relatively simple, considering the dramatic potential: conducting electricity with zero resistance at room temperature and ordinary ambient pressure. 

Woman in 50s style ad holds tray of brownies with green chips. Image generated by Dall-e2, LK-99, superconductor
Images generated by Dall•e2

What Could LK-99 Change?

If LK-99 works, how could it be used?

  • High-speed, efficient transportation
  • Medical technologies like MRIs that are actually affordable
  • Supercomputers
  • Artificial intelligence 
  • Communications of all kinds
  • High-resolution imaging
  • Revolutionizing the efficiency of power grids
  • Deep-space radio astrophysics (!!)
  • Efficient and smaller microchips
  • More compact electronics of all kinds
  • Superior power cables
  • Fusion
  • Or, anywhere electricity is used (!!)

Superconductors expel magnetic fields, allowing them to stably levitate over magnets. Think: Levitating trains and hoverboards! Who wants a Star Wars Landspeeder? (See video below)

Video by Fireship:

Considering all of these things, analysts say LK-99 would be “disruptive” to many industries (see video below). Such claims have already led journalists to the door of an ordinary basement lab in Seoul, where the research has been conducted. They aren’t getting in, and the scientific community is skeptical about the as-yet unverified claims. As one would expect, experts warn results are “a long way off.” But what if they’re wrong?

Video via CNBC Television:

Stocks Prices Rising Already

The researchers include Kim Hyun Tak from the College of William & Mary in Virginia, who expected the skepticism. 

“It’s common practice when a new crucial discovery or invention is made public that there are more people who say that it’s not credible,” Kim said in a Zoom interview with Bloomberg. “It’s a natural thing for some people to laugh at it because it’s the first time, and they don’t even know what it is, but as time passes, they start to believe it.”

Nevertheless, reports about forthcoming papers have already led to rising stock prices in China and South Korea. Everyone wants to cash in, which is probably a big reason we don’t already have better, cleaner advanced technology in place.

Related: Scientists Make Energy Out of Humid Air and Want to Scale Up Clean Energy Generators

From Humble Beginnings

Fellow South Korean researcher Changgu Lee says they need to refine the recipe with more trials matching the precise conditions of the experiments. So far, they have been unable to mass-produce LK-99 while the world pounds on the door, seeking samples and data before it’s available.

“You know that the office is extremely small and in a poor state,” said Kim. “It’s so small, and you need the money to make the compounds. That’s why they cannot mass-produce it.”

So ironically, the recipe for a product that could revolutionize the world may be coming out of the most modest of circumstances. LK-99 could prove to be a USO or the Soylent Green du jour, but it’s also a reminder that game-changing discoveries could always be just around the corner.

Video by WION: