Why is China still risking to overtake the world with this crazy $220 million bet?


When we talk about technology, China is often in the news. Since the beginning of the 21st century, the country has invested heavily in education and scientific research. Many universities and research centers have been built, attracting talent from all over the world. China is being considered today as one of the world’s leading technological innovators : energy, robotics, semiconductors or AI.

In the field of physics, the country is also moving forward. Nestled north of Beijing, user equipment for Synergistic Extreme Conditions (SECUF) is a veritable $220 million temple of science. Dedicated to exploring the limits of matter under conditions of rare intensity, its unique facility offers researchers an unrivaled playground for exploring the most extreme behavior of matter.

Extreme laboratory

There are several installations in the bowels of SECUF. Scientists working there embarked on a bold quest: to reveal the secrets of superconductorsthese materials with extraordinary properties, capable of conducting electric current without any resistance.

Li Lu, founding director of SECUF and a condensed matter physicist at the Institute of Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, is one of the conductors of this scientific adventure. According to him, variety of equipment present in the building is a godsend. ” This type of combination of extreme conditions offers very good chances for new discoveries ” explains.

The Holy Grail SECUF teams are looking for: to discover a superconducting material that would work at room temperature. Currently, such a material does not exist, and current superconductors still require extremely cold conditions. If they were to discover it one day, it would mean a revolution in many technological fields: in transport, medicine, energy or IT.

His 22 experimental installations they’ve been running since last September: so the quest is on!

SECUF
© Institute of Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences

Unique search options

SECUF is equipped with a a real arsenal of extraordinary installations explore the mysteries of physics in unimaginable conditions.

Ultra-low temperature vacuum chambers, true technological marvels that make it possible to reach freezing temperatures, bordering on absolute zero (-273.15°C), to study the behavior of matter in extreme states. This is also possible with other devices, such as high pressure cellswhich compress matter to unimaginable pressures, exceeding those at the center of the Earth.

It also has a station that uses a superconducting magnet. Magnet of aberrant energy generating colossal magnetic fields, million times more intense than the earth’s field, in order to observe magnetic effects on materials and physical phenomena. Although the magnetic field it is able to deliver is not as strong as some other laboratories such as NHMFL (National High Magnetic Field Laboratory) in the US, it can keep it stable for almost a month.

The laboratory can also calculate very high intensity lasers, delivering phenomenal pulses of energy. Scientists can thus study the interactions of matter and light in extreme regimes and create new states of matter.

By bringing together all these advanced technologies in one place, SECUF is an exceptional place for scientists and is therefore equipped with exceptional tools that allow them pushes the boundaries of materials science.

SECUF is also real center of attraction for scientists from all over the world thanks to its unique configuration. The ability of researchers to conduct complex and diverse experiments in a single location substantially increases the likelihood of breakthrough discoveries. For China, the advantage is huge and SECUF could provide China a step ahead of other nations. A fact that Ali Bangura, a physicist at NHMFL, readily acknowledges.

  • SECUF is a unique laboratory located north of Beijing.
  • It concentrates several types of installations enabling the study of matter in extreme conditions.
  • Its main goal is to enable the discovery of a superconducting material operating at room temperature.

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