Nature has retracted a paper that claimed to provide the first evidence of room-temperature superconductivity, even as the paper’s authors say they still have confidence in the results. The decision appears to address an issue with questionable controls in the experiment.
High-temperature superconductivity has made a lot of progress due to the use of hydrogen-rich chemicals under extreme pressures, which can force hydrogen into chemical structures that might otherwise have empty space. Many papers have obtained hydrogen-rich chemicals that are capable of superconducting at temperatures that can be reached with dry ice.
The Room Temperature report followed a similar path, using intense pressure to force hydrogen to combine with a new mixture of chemicals and reach record temperatures — in this case, above water’s freezing point, a major milestone. The pressures involved mean the material won’t be useful for real-world applications, but it may point the way toward other chemicals that could do so.
But people in the field raised some questions about how the data obtained during this work were processed before they were put into the paper – mainly how to deal with the background noise seen in the control samples. Nature editors point out that the procedure used to process the data was not included in the paper, which “undermines confidence” in the results.
The research team strongly disagrees, saying that the raw, unprocessed data also supports their original conclusions. They feel that the paper should not be pulled.
Usually, this is something that replication should be able to solve. But a report by a Science news team says the original paper didn’t contain enough detail to make replication simple. The team behind the post suggests that anyone wanting to replicate their work should visit their labs in order to do the work — which is not how replication is expected to work. So it may take some time before we know if this high temperature superconductor is real.
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