LK-99 — How Science Sleuths Solved the Mystery

Efforts to replicate the material have pieced together the puzzle of why it displayed superconducting-like behaviours. But researchers seem to have solved the puzzle of LK-99.

Scientific detective work has unearthed evidence that the material is not a superconductor, and clarified its actual properties.

The conclusion dashes hopes that LK-99 — a compound of copper, lead, phosphorus and oxygen — would prove to be the first superconductor that works at room temperature and ambient pressure. Instead, studies have shown that impurities in the material — in particular, copper sulfide — were responsible for sharp drops in its electrical resistivity and a display of partial levitation over a magnet, properties similar to those exhibited by superconductors.

“I think things are pretty decisively settled at this point,” says Inna Vishik, a condensed-matter experimentalist at the University of California, Davis.

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