Superconductor Found in Fragments of a Meteorite

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A team of scientists led by Ivan Schuller from the University of California, San Diego, has identified some trace amounts of superconducting material while examing one of the giant Australian meteorites.

The finding was unexpected as scientists who study quantum computers were searching for superconductors. Schuller’s team, however, wasn’t only interested in meteorites. They also searched for superconductivity everywhere.

Superconductivity Identified in Meteorite

The team used a technique dubbed MFMMS (Magnetic Field Modulated Microwave Spectroscopy). The method required sample fragments in its cavity filled with an irregular magnetic field and microwaves. The MFMMS technique lets scientists scan through many materials quickly. They can also discover which materials are superconductors and which are not.

Furthermore, the team performed a full scan through hundreds of meteorite samples, from microscopic meteorites to larger fragments. Then, the superconducting transition was measured in two meteorite fragments by James Wampler, a graduate student. One chunk was from the Mundrabilla meteorite, while the other, from the Earth’s most giant meteorites of 22 metric tons of pieces, shattered across Australia’s Nullarbor region.

The last fragment was from a meteorite dubbed GRA 95205. The superconducting material represents an alloy of tin, indium, and lead. Such a discovery is the first proof of superconductivity in space. Sculler stated: “The big takeaway is that there is superconductivity in the sky, naturally occurring.”

The samples were confirmed at the Brookhaven Nationa Lab by scientists Shaobo Cheng and Yimei Zhu. They utilized an electron microscope to establish the accuracy of the superconductivity of materials. It’s still unknown how that allows forms in space. Most likely, the meteorites’ components would have undergone chemical modifications such as recrystallization and heating during the Solar System’s creation. Then, it could have obscured the environment their materials first developed within. For Schuller’s team, the finding of material already identified on our planet doesn’t support their quest for new superconductors discovery.