The dream may be dead, but here’s how LK-99 would’ve changed AI


As the dream of LK-99 faded, I asked a quantum computing expert what a room-temperature superconductor would mean for classical computing, quantum computing, AI – and what he thinks of the would-be wonder material.

Researchers in Korea recently reported achieving superconductivity at room temperature and ambient pressure in a new material called LK-99. If confirmed, this discovery is thought to revolutionize power transmission, computing, and AI. Most superconducting materials only superconduct near absolute zero or at very high pressures and are used only in special applications such as MRIs or particle accelerators.

While the final verdict is still out – although it doesn’t look too good right now – I spoke with physicist and quantum computing researcher Dr. Sam Stanwyck on Thursday to find out how and if a room-temperature superconductor would transform classical computing, quantum computing, and AI – and what he thinks of LK-99.

“The potential to be transformative for just about every area of technology”

“A superconductor is a material with a very interesting set of properties, the most important being that below a certain temperature, it conducts electricity with zero resistance and therefore zero power dissipation, zero energy loss,” the researcher told me. “From an application perspective, the ability to conduct electricity with zero power loss has the potential to be transformative for just about every area of technology.”


Dr. Stanwyck explained that if LK-99 can superconduct at room temperature, it would enable transformative new technologies. Long-distance power grids could operate without losses. Electronics and computing could become much more energy efficient by eliminating resistance in processors and interconnects. Fields like nuclear fusion power would also become more viable without the need for massive cooling systems.

Dr. Stanwyck cautioned, however, that “there’s a very long and uncertain path from discovering a promising new material to actually it being widely available in commercial applications”. Other once-promising materials, such as graphene, took decades to make a commercial impact, he said.

“This is especially true in computing because everything from the fabrication process to the architecture to the software is so precise and so specialized” that it would generally take a long time for new technologies to impact computing.

The cancellation of IBM’s Josephson computer technology project in 1983 comes to mind: Problems with the planned high-speed memory chip delayed the computer long enough for IBM to realize that classic semiconductors would catch up, and the company canceled the project.

A room-temperature superconductor would probably first be used in interconnects in supercomputers

So even if LK-99 is real or a similar material is found, Stanwyck says the next set of questions would be, “How stable is it and how easy is it to make?” There are copper oxide-based superconductors developed in the 1980s that work at higher temperatures, “but they’re less used in applications because they’re tricky to work with,” he told me. This would be even more important in the micro- or nanofabrication processes needed for computing.



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