Science Alert's Superconductivity Has Been Discovered in Meteorites For The First Time quotes from Superconductivity found in meteorites (Wampler et al. PNAS March 23, 2020)
The paper describes the identification of grains within meteorites that have superconductivity transition temperatures as high as 6 Kelvin.
At the end of the discussion the paper explores possible astronomical implications of naturally occurring superconducting dust particles; "...superconducting particles could sustain microscopic current loops generated by transient fields and contribute to nearby magnetic fields."
That section is reproduced below.
- Are there any known phenomena that can produce "transient fields" that could induce such microscopic current loops that persist after the transient has passed? Would the transient have to be step function or could it be a pulse and return to baseline? Would it need to be electric or magnetic or could it be either?
- Have the implications of superconducting space dust been explored previously? (I'm supposing not since the authors haven't cited anything and would have probably done a thorough literature search)
While these nonchondritic meteorites do not carry a history of the interstellar medium (1), the fact that these phases can form naturally in macroscopic grains shows that there exists a natural process that can create these phases. This suggests the possibility that superconducting material phases could also be found in interstellar grains deep within the coldest regions of space, where these phases would be in a superconducting state. For example, cold, dense molecular clouds have typical temperatures as low as 10 K (29), but in regions with particularly low ultraviolet stellar radiation, temperatures are estimated to be as low as 5 K (30) or even colder (31). In unusual parts of space, temperatures can be even lower (32). The superconducting phases detected in these meteorites would be superconducting in these regions. Furthermore, other metallic alloys have been shown to have critical temperatures above 10 K (33, 34), which could exist naturally if they could be created in similar conditions to the phases detected in this manuscript.
Superconducting particles within cold regions of space could have implications on the structure of stellar objects. Specifically, superconducting particles could sustain microscopic current loops generated by transient fields and contribute to nearby magnetic fields. The origins of some magnetic fields, such as those observed in giant molecular clouds (35), are not well understood. Whether or not naturally superconducting phases would have any significant effect would depend on the critical temperature and quantity of such phases, and therefore deserves further study. There is an aggressive expansion of research and new missions to space, searching for new materials in extraterrestrial objects. This study suggests that the search for naturally occurring superconducting grains and their roles in astronomical objects should be a new component of such research.