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Understanding the nature of superconductivity is one of the most important problems in both applied and fundamental physics.

Currently, superconductivity can only be achieved at extremely low temperatures of about minus 150 degrees Celsius and below normal atmospheric pressures and has found very important applications in magnetic resonance imaging, particle accelerators, or prototype fusion reactors. If scientists manage to raise this critical temperature to room temperature, superconductivity could revolutionize many industries, from quantum computers—many of which are based on superconducting qubits—to the energy sector, where transmission of electricity without losses could lead to huge economic benefits.

One of the reasons this goal is still elusive is that scientists do not yet have a reliable theory to easily understand what materials will possess room temperature superconductivity, and under what conditions this property could be induced, such as under applied pressure or elastic deformation.

Many researchers believe that a crucial step towards finding this theory is to learn how a known superconductor reacts to changing conditions.

“As often in physics and chemistry, we learn a lot by tweaking external conditions and watching what the system does in response,” said Jürgen Haase at the University of Leipzig in an e-mail. “A proper theory should be in agreement with that.”

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