Superconductor meteorite discovered for the first time
New Delhi : For the first time in history, scientists have discovered naturally occurring superconducting meteorite in the space.
The discovery has proven that the meteorites can be much more than just debris that falls out from the sky. With this, the window has opened to explore the opportunity of finding possible extraterrestrial proteins, minerals we've never encountered, and materials older than the Solar System itself.
Superconductivity is a set of physical properties that ensures 'perfect' electrical conductivity in material, meaning all electrical resistance inside the material vanishes, among other effects. This phenomenon has been rarely seen in natural materials.
The scientists, who have claimed that things are very different in the space, believe that the meteorites could be good candidates for finding naturally formed superconducting materials forged in the strangeness of space. The only problem is, previous searches have never identified any such superconducting compounds.
In a new study led by researchers from UC San Diego, scientists investigated fragments from 15 different meteorites, using a technique called magnetic field modulated microwave spectroscopy to detect traces of superconductivity inside the samples.
They got two hits: one, in an iron meteorite called Mundrabilla, one of the largest meteorites ever found, which was discovered in Australia in 1911; the other, a rare ureilite meteorite called GRA 95205, located in Antarctica a quarter-century ago.
"Naturally occurring superconductive materials are unusual, but they are particularly significant because these materials could be superconducting in extraterrestrial environments," says physicist and nanoscientist James Wampler.
"These measurements and analysis identified the likely phases as alloys of lead, indium, and tin."
"Even the simplest superconducting mineral, lead, is only rarely found naturally in its native form, and, to our knowledge, there are no previous reports of natural lead samples superconducting," the authors explain in their paper.
"In fact, we are only aware of one previous report of superconductivity in natural materials, in the mineral covellite."
The findings are reported in PNAS.