Nature has retracted a groundbreaking paper demonstrating superconductivity at room temperature.
We’ve written about the discovery before and the debate around its legitimacy. Published in October 2020 in Nature, researchers led by Ranga Dias at the University of Rochester showed that their solid carbon, sulfur, and hydrogen compound could exhibit superconductivity—zero energy loss as current passes through it—at 14°C, just under room temperature.
Superconductors have many practical applications, including everyday items like motors, generators, and transformers, as well as medical Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance devices. With superconductors, we could transfer electrical energy from one point to another without losing any energy, but this has never been demonstrated outside of a lab.
In the past, superconductivity has only been observed at temperatures just above absolute zero because there is almost no electrical resistance in such extreme cold. This Is one of the reasons that some physicists doubted the discovery.
They wondered if some of the principles of superconductivity were able to be tested with the research team’s setup, and one group even asked the authors to see the unprocessed data. However, Dias’s group refused, and Nature had to add disclaimers to the original article.
The retraction of the paper came after Nature editors investigated the data analysis. The group used a “nonstandard procedure” when subtracting noise from the experimental data. Since the technique wasn’t explained in the paper, it led to questions about the validity of the results.
Dias responded, expressing his “disappointment” in the Nature editors, but reaffirmed that the retraction didn’t question the “observed physical superconductivity state,” he said in a statement.
Dias and his team plan to resubmit the paper with the original data included.