The Quest For Zero Energy Loss And The Fusion Frontier

Superconductivity, or the idea that certain materials are capable of conducting direct current (DC) electricity without resistance or energy loss, has been an elusive phenomenon for well over a century.

In 1911, a Dutch scientist named Heike Kamerlingh-Onnes found that mercury could superconduct electricity at very low temperatures, a monumental discovery for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize.

In the decades since, many more alloys and substances have also been shown to have superconductivity properties, but none so far has been able to work in a stable, room-temperature setting—the Holy Grail of physics.

That’s why it was such a big deal last month when a team of South Korean scientists claimed to have created a breakthrough material, referred to as LK-99, that could supposedly conduct electricity without any resistance at room temperatures and ambient (or normal) pressure. If confirmed, such a discovery could revolutionize the energy sector, address climate change and significantly reduce energy waste and costs, not to mention contribute to advancements in MRI technology, magnetic levitation trains, fusion energy and more.

The Rise And Fall Of LK-99

It’s impossible to overhype the significance of this allegation. Picture zero energy loss. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has estimated that roughly 5% of electricity transmission and distribution is lost annually. That may not sound like a lot—until you learn that the U.S. generated over 4.2 trillion kilowatt hours (kWh) in 2022.

We’re talking billions and billions of dollars in recovered energy every year.

U.S. electricity loss