An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: Researchers at the University of Houston have reported a new method for inducing superconductivity in non-superconducting materials, demonstrating a concept proposed decades ago but never proven. The technique can also be used to boost the efficiency of known superconducting materials, suggesting a new way to advance the commercial viability of superconductors, said Paul C.W. Chu, chief scientist at the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH and corresponding author of a paper describing the work, published Oct. 31 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research, demonstrating a new method to take advantage of assembled interfaces to induce superconductivity in the non-superconducting compound calcium iron arsenide, offers a new approach to finding superconductors that work at higher temperatures. Superconducting materials conduct electric current without resistance, while traditional transmission materials lose as much as 10 percent of energy between the generating source and the end user. That means superconductors could allow utility companies to provide more electricity without increasing the amount of fuel used to generate electricity. To validate the concept, researchers working in ambient pressure exposed the undoped calcium iron arsenide compound to heat -- 350 degrees Centigrade, considered relatively low temperature for this procedure -- in a process known as annealing. The compound formed two distinct phases, with one phase increasingly converted to the other the longer the sample was annealed. Chu said neither of the two phases was superconducting, but researchers were able to detect superconductivity at the point when the two phases coexist. Although the superconducting critical temperature of the sample produced through the process was still relatively low, Chu said the method used to prove the concept offers a new direction in the search for more efficient, less expensive superconducting materials.