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Ranga Dias, a physicist at the University of Rochester, cast doubt on the discovery

Ranga Dias, a physicist at the University of Rochester, cast doubt on the discovery

No friction. This is what Ranga Dias strives for.

The University of Rochester physicist spends most of his days in a private laboratory on Blossom Road, tirelessly pursuing a feat he says he has already accomplished: ambient superconductivity, in which electricity can move without resistance at room temperature and under relatively normal atmospheric pressure.

Unlocking this achievement would change the world. Energy will be cheap and abundant; Computer chip technology will advance light years.

Dias has recruited scientists and analysts from around the world and secured $17 million in venture capital funding. They are committed to pinpointing exactly how the material they call Reddmatter can free electrons from impenetrable conduction laws.

“The science is real,” Dias said in a recent interview with D&C, one of the few he’s given in the past year. “The science is there…this is the beginning.”

Other leading physicists believe his approach can be proven theoretically correct, but they want to see data that proves it. Here lies the friction.

Dias works in his own lab and not at the University of Uruguay largely because he is an outcast from the university and the world of academic physics in general. His series of scientific papers touting the remarkable progress were retracted due to allegations of fraud. A recent review commissioned by UR found that he engaged in research misconduct and recommended that he be dismissed.

The broad scholarly consensus, including among his employers and his former students and collaborators, is that Dias fabricated or distorted his data.

N said. Peter Armitage, a physicist at Johns Hopkins University: “BS is complete.” “All the papers had problems. … His students said the data wasn’t taken, and the analysis of the other data was completely fraudulent. That’s the story.”

Achieving the impossible

A superconductor that operates at room temperature and relatively low pressure—outside a specialized laboratory, in other words—would be one of the landmark scientific advances in human history.

Generating non-polluting energy through nuclear fusion will become vastly simpler and cheaper, allowing for a rapid transition away from fossil fuels. Trains can fly over the rails thanks to strong magnetism, which reduces resistance to almost zero. Frictionless transmission between superconducting computer chips, or across superconducting power lines, would revolutionize communications and power transmission.

Dias created a frenzy in 2020 With the claim to have solved half the problem, creating superconductivity at room temperature but still under enormous pressure.

That paper, published in the prestigious journal Nature, was It backed down after two years After outside physicists reported data irregularities. Dias and his teammates objected to the reversal, and Uruguay at the time stood behind it following an internal review.

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He continued his research, and in 2023 announced an even more noteworthy achievement, published again in the journal Nature. This time, Dias said he achieved the seemingly impossible: superconductivity at room temperature and low pressure. The main innovation was its use of a rare earth metal called lutetium hydride, along with a small amount of nitrogen. He named the material Reddmatter.

“He could be the best high-pressure physicist in the world and is expected to win a Nobel Prize.” One scientist told the New York Times In 2023. “Or there’s something else going on.”

Within days, other physicists were raising objections to Dias’s new claims. They found unusual patterns in the data that suggested possible manipulation or fabrication. Graduate students who worked on the experiments in Dias’ laboratories were joined by other co-authors Asking nature to withdraw the article, Saying that there was a “lack of transparency… (and) scientific diligence” within Dias’ lab.

Less than a week after the landmark paper was published in March 2023, the National Science Foundation, which sponsored some of Dias’ work, UR was asked to investigate Allegations of misconduct.

That paper was also withdrawn. Three other research papers were also published, bringing the total to five.

Critics have also noted passages of text in Dias’s doctoral dissertation and other published works that were copied almost verbatim from the works of other authors, examples that Dias dismissed as unintentional, trivial, or due to prior difficulties as a learner of English.

“Can’t be trusted”

An internal review of the kind ordered by the Uruguay Round in 2023 would normally remain secret. It was published earlier this year, Despite this, in a legal file related to the lawsuit filed by Dias against the university. He is asking the judge to force the University of Uruguay to form a grievance committee “relating to academic freedom.”

The three outside physicists who wrote the report harshly criticized Dias. They accused him of falsifying and fabricating data, and said he failed to provide appropriate raw data to his peers to try to replicate his findings.

“The Inquiry recommends that Dias not be permitted to teach students, mentor students, or supervise students at any level…or conduct independent research funded by government agencies or private entities (whether industrial or philanthropic),” they wrote. “The evidence “What was revealed in this investigation shows that he cannot be trusted.”

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Orr accepted the report and stripped Dias of his student and teaching responsibilities, although he still had access to his laboratory. In a legal file, The university said it had asked the internal Tenure and Privileges Committee to terminate Dias, who does not have a job.

Dias submitted a 175-page response to investigators, then added more than 100 pages of additional comments after publishing their findings. He said the report reflects “a series of misunderstandings and misapplication of scientific standards and methodologies” and ignores exculpatory evidence.

“The path to scientific discovery is fraught with challenges, but through these adversities we can improve our methodologies, strengthen our convictions, and contribute to the vast fabric of human knowledge,” he concluded. “Let us move forward in a shared commitment to truth, integrity, and the relentless pursuit of scientific excellence.”

In an interview, Dias admitted that he would never teach at the University of Uruguay again.

“My experience in the past four years has been very bitter,” he said. “I’m sure they want me gone, and I don’t want to be there either.”

Nature magazine was subjected to severe criticism after publishing two of Dias’s research, specifically the second research. Armitage, the Johns Hopkins University physicist, said Uruguay had also committed a “dereliction of duty” by not heeding previous warnings about Dias’ research.

He particularly noted A Video 2023 The university was created to promote his claims about superconductivity.

“I think Uruguay’s behavior was strange,” he said. “They clearly wanted this to be true at all levels of the organization… They had dollar signs in their eyes.”

Slow and lonely work

What if Dias is right?

He has mostly avoided interviews in the past year but has mentioned his case at length in court documents as well as a memo to colleagues at UR.

He says the declines were the result of new methodologies and misunderstandings. A sort of rebellion instigated by two “dissatisfied” graduate students; The university abandoned it for public relations reasons, not scientific ones. Dias has ample documentation on each of these points, but internal auditors — who he says had a conflict of interest that should have been eliminated — found it unconvincing.

As for the research question itself, Dias and his partners at Unearthly Materials are sure they’re right.

“If you read the theoretical papers, it was almost a natural conclusion,” said Ron Sealam, chief technology officer. “We know the theory is that there will be superconductivity. The only question is how to collect a suitable sample of it.”

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Work at the lab on Blossom Road has recently focused on the question of how to develop additional samples of Redmatter that would have the same superconducting effect that Dias said he had previously observed. This means reverse engineering from the small, degrading sample they already have.

It is slow and solitary work, done in isolation from the scientific community as a whole. However, whoever controls the core technology behind the superconductivity breakthrough stands to gain huge profits.

Unearthly Materials is currently valued at $200 million, based on a $15 million investment from European venture capital firm Plural, Dias said. A superconductivity nexus is expected in upstate New York, including Cornell University and the University of Buffalo.

There are also two Appropriate Patents, Both are based on Dias’ work at the University of Uruguay and are therefore owned by the university. Applications are currently pending in the US Patent and Trademark Office.

This is a major source of frustration for Dias: Orr has abandoned his research everywhere except the one place where he can enrich himself if he is acquitted.

“If the research paper contains fabricated data, the patent application contains fabricated data,” he said. He asked UR to release his patents if they did not support basic research.

In a statement, UR spokeswoman Sarah Miller said the university “is in the process of re-evaluating the university’s relationship with Professor Dias’s intellectual property, patents and commercial activities, and intends to exclude those interests whose scientific validity is now in serious doubt.” “

All of this — the retraction, the tarnishing of his name, and perhaps the loss of his professorship — is “background noise,” Dias said. He believes in his research and methods and is confident that he will be exonerated in the end.

“The only thing that keeps me going is that I know the science,” he said. “I know what I see. …I just need time to prove it.”

-Justin Murphy is a veteran reporter for the Democratic and Historical Journal and the author of “Your Children Are at Too Much Risk: School Segregation in Rochester, New York.” Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/CitizenMurphy Or contact him at [email protected].