In which scientists get drunk and pour their beverages on compounds to create superconductors.
It’s no secret that I cook better with wine. I’m not just talking about a dash of red in pasta sauce or half a bottle of cheap white in risotto. I mean, when I’m tipsy I’m generous with the flavours and cook in a twirling, happy sashay of creation. But who knew it was the same with science?
Superconductors are metals at very low temperatures (6 Kelvin) which gain certain properties: Namely that the normal resistance drops to zero and they start conducting electricity incredibly well.
The experiment conducted at the National Institute for Materials Science in Japan involved soaking compounds (powders of iron, tellurium and tellurium sulfide) in different fluids, then cooling them and testing how well they conducted electricity.
First experiment: pure water. Results = boring. (10% superconducting volume fraction)
Second experiment: water plus ethanol. Results = yawn. (11%)
Third experiment: pure ethanol. Results = worse than water. (6%)
At this stage, I can only assume the scientists got drunk. They got a variety of different drinks (whiskey, sake, wine, etc) poured out 20 mL shots and soaked the compound in their boozy concoctions. When they tested conductivity, the results were surprising. Whiskey did well, beer did better, and red wine was streaks ahead with a whopping 63% of the material showing superconductive properties. For some reason commercial drinks created better superconductors than pure ethanol and water.
Here’s a graph of the results.
As you can see, red wine is a clear winner, followed by white wine, beer, sake and other commercial drinks. At the bottom is boring old ethanol/water. Clearly what was lacking was a bit of FLAVOUR. That, or oxygen, particulates… actually they don’t know why it happened. More experiments need to be performed. Probably every Friday night from 3pm.
Still, it’s a fantastic case of serendipity. Plus, once the results were in, all the drinks were ALREADY THERE for celebrating! Sweet!
The paper is available free from arXiv – Deguchi K. et al “Superconductivity in FeTe1-xSx induced by alcohol”