Physicists Discover Tantalising New Properties of Uranium Compounds, Including Superconductivity

Physicists Discover Tantalising New Properties of Uranium Compounds, Including Superconductivity.


Scientists have experimentally confirmed the existence of strange new uranium compounds - and they predict some could even achieve superconductivity close to room temperature. Superconducting materials are able to shuttle electricity without any resistance - an incredible feat that could revolutionise our energy use.
But so far researchers have only found superconductivity in a handful of materials at either incredibly cold temperatures, or under extreme pressure. The current record holder is a rare hydrogen sulphur compound that achieved superconductivity at a balmy 203 Kelvin (-70 degrees Celsius or -94 Fahrenheit). And now the team thinks these new uranium compounds could do something similar... if not better, because they might not require such high pressures. These new compounds are what's known as uranium hydrides - a mix of uranium and hydrogen.
Until recently, the only example of this species of molecule was uranium trihydride (UH3) which once played a vital role in nuclear experiments in the 1940sNow we can add a few more to the list, including UH5, UH6, UH7, UH8, UH9, U2H13 and U2H17.
To create them, a team of researchers from the US, Russia, and China applied pressure of up to 5 million atmospheres to a mixture of uranium and hydrogen, whipping up a generous assortment of uranium hydrides that have never been seen before. Slowly stepping up the pressure, the researchers successfully created a total of 14 new uranium hydride compounds, some in multiple phases.

Artem Oganov, fellow researcher at Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) said, "The two highlights of our results are that high pressure produces an amazingly rich collection of hydrides, most of which do not fit into classical chemistry. And that these hydrides can actually be obtained and become superconducting at very low pressures, perhaps even at atmospheric pressure."
So what's the big deal about superconductivity? We've known for more than a century that electricity can flow through some materials without losing precious energy along the way. Turning this into technology would be a big win for electronics, but it comes with a catch; those materials need to be cold. Very cold. Like a few degrees above absolute zero kind of cold.
There is a glimmer of hope. In the 1980s, scientists found signs that certain ceramic materials can achieve the same results at temperatures that don't require the world's most expensive freezers. Four years ago, scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany went even better, with the discovery that sulphur hydride could superconduct at 203 Kelvin.
Ivan Kruglov, researcher at MIPT, said, "After H3S was discovered, scientists started eagerly searching for superconducting hydrides in other non-metals."
This research is published in Science Advances.

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Scien-Tech News: Physicists Discover Tantalising New Properties of Uranium Compounds, Including Superconductivity
Physicists Discover Tantalising New Properties of Uranium Compounds, Including Superconductivity
Physicists Discover Tantalising New Properties of Uranium Compounds, Including Superconductivity.
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