What’s The Relation Between Periodic Table and Superconductivity?

  • Researchers have found a new high-temperature superconductive material – actinium hydrides. 
  • They also created a method to measure hydrides superconductivity using the periodic table. 

Superconductivity is the capability of specific material to conduct electric current with almost zero resistance. The material needs to be at extremely low temperature to behave as a superconductor.

Some materials have critical temperatures above -183 degree Celsius. These materials are called high-temperature superconductors because such a high transition temperature isn’t possible for a conventional superconductor.

For decades, researchers have been experimenting on superconduction at higher temperatures than -196 degree Celsius (liquid nitrogen temperature), as it opens up a wide range of applications in transport, power industry, and other sectors, which isn’t practical at lower temperature.

At present, Hydrogen sulfide is the record holder in high-temperature superconductivity. It acts as a superconductor at temperatures below -70 degree Celsius and about 150 GPa (gigapascal) of pressure.

These levels of temperature and pressure aren’t obtained in real life scenarios; they are only created in a laboratory environment. Therefore, researchers continued their hunt of new superconductive materials.

We could use metal-hydrogen compounds to achieve high-temperature superconductivity. However, the relationship between superconductivity and chemical composition was still unclear. This left the scientists with only one option – trial and error.

Using Periodic Table To Calculate Superconductivity

Now researchers at Skoltech and MIPT have found the higher-temperature superconductivity in actinium hydrides. They have even created a method for measuring hydrides superconductivity using periodic table.

The team discovered that a few elements in the periodic table that can form superconductive compounds are ordered in a unique pattern.

Courtesy of researchers

The elements with metal atoms, which come close to populating a new electronic subshell, show properties of high-temperature superconductors. It is considered that metal atoms within the crystal turn sensitive to the nearby atoms’ positions.

Reference: ACS Publications | doi:10.1021/acs.jpclett.8b00615 | MIPT 

This presumption was pointing to one specific component – actinium hydrides. Later they confirmed that it was indeed true. It was showing high-temperature superconductivity at temperature between -69 to -22 degree Celsius and 200 GPa of pressure. 

Actinium belongs to the d1 elements’ series, which form high temperature superconducting hydrides. Combining these presumptions and observations, researchers proposed that the d1 and p0 metals with low-lying empty orbitals tend to produce phonon-mediated high-temperature superconductivity metal polyhydrides.


So far, the applications for high-temperature superconductors have been limited. But this is soon going to change. It could be used in radio frequency and microwave filters, and in low thermal loss current lead for low thermal conductivity equipment.

Read: Noble Gas Can React With Earth’s Core Metals | Missing Xenon Mystery

It could be used in MRI and NMR systems. Moreover, promising commercial applications include fusion reactors, transformers, power storage, generators, magnetic levitation instruments and induction heaters.

Written by
Varun Kumar

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