News Release

New crystal structure for hydrogen compounds for high-temperature superconductivity

Researchers identify a new crystal structure of hydrogen compounds as a candidate for high-temperature superconductivity using theoretical simulations

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology

Figure 1. Clathrate structures of LaYH12 and LaY3H24.

image: Using computer simulations, a global team of researchers have predicted new crystal structures for realizing a high-temperature superconductor with ternary hydrides, taking us one step further to realizing a low-cost and lossless power transmission technology. view more 

Credit: Ryo Maezono from JAIST

Ishikawa, Japan - Superconductivity is the disappearance of electrical resistance in certain materials below a certain temperature, known as “transition temperature.” The phenomenon has tremendous implications for revolutionizing technology as know it, enabling low-loss power transmission and maintenance of electromagnetic force without electrical supply. However, superconductivity usually requires extremely low temperatures ~ 30 K (the temperature of liquid nitrogen, in comparison, is 77 K) and, therefore, expensive cooling technology. To have a shot at realizing a low-cost superconducting technology, superconductivity must be achieved at much higher transition temperatures.

Materials scientists have had a breakthrough on this front with crystalline materials containing hydrogen, known as “metal hydrides.” These are compounds formed by a metal atom bonded with hydrogen that have been predicted and realized as suitable candidates for achieving even room-temperature superconductivity. However, they require extremely high pressures to do so, limiting their practical applications.

In a new study published in Chemistry of Materials, a group of researchers led by Professor Ryo Maezono from Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (JAIST) performed computer simulations to expand the search for high-temperature superconductors, looking for potential candidates among ternary hydrides (hydrogen combined with two other elements).

“In ternary hydrides, the number of elements is increased from two to three. While this enormously increases the number of possible combinations and can make the problem of predicting suitable materials more difficult, it also increases our chances of coming across a potential high-temperature superconductor,” explains Prof. Maezono.

Using the supercomputer at the university, the researchers examined possible crystal structures for (LaH6) (YH6)y compounds (y= 1-4), looking for configurations that would yield stable structures, allowing their synthesis in the laboratory at high pressures. Starting from a random structure, the simulations went through various possible combinations of elements, testing their stability at extremely high pressures ~ 300 GPa.

The simulations revealed clathrate (Cmmm-) structures of LaYH12 and LaY3H24, consisting of LaH24 and YH24 cages stacked on top of each other (Figure 1), as viable candidates for high-temperature and high-pressure superconductors. “The longer stacking for Cmmm-LaY3H24 lead to a slightly increased transition temperature,” explains Prof. Maezono. Among the possible structures, the highest transition temperature (145.31 K – 137.11 K) was observed for LaY3H24. The researchers attributed the origin of higher transition temperature to a high “density of states” and high “phonon frequency,” two parameters that are used to assess superconductivity in materials.

These findings have excited the researchers, who optimistically speculate the discovery of more such high-temperature superconductors. “It is quite possible to predict using simulations other new combinations of elements that would improve the desired properties further,” says Prof. Maezono.

With potential new discoveries on the horizon, a practical superconductor-based technology may not be a pipe dream after all!





Title of original paper:

High-Tc superconducting hydrides formed by LaH24 and YH24 cage structures as basic blocks


Chemistry of Materials




About Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Japan

Founded in 1990 in Ishikawa prefecture, the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (JAIST) was the first independent national graduate school in Japan. Now, after 30 years of steady progress, JAIST has become one of Japan’s top-ranking universities. JAIST counts with multiple satellite campuses and strives to foster capable leaders with a state-of-the-art education system where diversity is key; about 40% of its alumni are international students. The university has a unique style of graduate education based on a carefully designed coursework-oriented curriculum to ensure that its students have a solid foundation on which to carry out cutting-edge research. JAIST also works closely both with local and overseas communities by promoting industry–academia collaborative research.


About Professor Ryo Maezono from Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Japan

Dr. Ryo Maezono has been a Professor at the School of Information Science at the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (JAIST) since 2017. He earned his PhD from the University of Tokyo in 2000 and worked as a researcher at the National Institute for Materials Science in Ibaraki, Japan from 2001 to 2007. His research areas include material informatics and condensed matter theory using high-performance computing. He is a senior researcher with 105 publications to his name.


Funding information

This study has been funded by the HPCI System Research Project (Project ID: hp190169), MEXT-KAKENHI (JP16H06439, JP17K17762, JP19K05029, and JP19H05169), the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (Award Numbers: FA2386-20-1-4036), MEXT-KAKENHI (21K03400 and 19H04692), and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR-AOARD/FA2386-17-1-4049; FA2386-19-1-4015).

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.