Scientists from Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and Skoltech have discovered a general principle for calculating the superconductivity of hydrides based on the periodic table alone. The result, published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, came as the group explored the superconductivity of actinium hydrides.
“The very idea of a connection between superconductivity and the periodic table was first put forward by Dmitry Semenok, a student at my lab,” says Artem Oganov, a professor of chemistry who led the team. “The principle he discovered is very simple and it is really amazing that no one had hit upon it before.”
Semenok worked from the established principle that high temperature superconductivity develops in substances containing metal atoms that come close to populating a new electronic subshell. Metal atoms inside the crystal are assumed to become highly sensitive to the positions of the neighboring atoms, resulting in a strong electron-phonon interaction—the underlying effect of conventional superconductivity. Based on this assumption, Semenok and other scientists on Oganov’s team supposed that high temperature superconductivity could occur in actinium hydrides, a supposition they say was verified and confirmed in the study.
According to the team, the study shows that certain elements capable of forming superconducting compounds are arranged in a specific pattern in the periodic table, providing a link between chemical composition and superconductivity that was previously unclear.