I recently read an article about molybdenum disulfide which in particular profiled Jie Shan and Kin Fai Mak who do research on the material at Cornell. It included, almost as asides, a bunch of tasks that needed to be accomplished even before the material made it out of the study phase (where it still is). Things like:
- The ability to connect the material to instruments:
Wang’s group, for one, fell back on graphene after finding that they couldn’t easily attach metal electrodes to moly disulfide. “That has been the stumbling block for our group for quite a few years,” he said. “Even now we are not very good at making contact.”
But when Hone’s group placed moly disulfide on an insulator, the properties of the stack showed lackluster gains compared to what they had seen in graphene. Eventually they realized that they hadn’t checked the quality of the TMD crystals. When they had some colleagues stick their moly disulfide under a microscope capable of resolving individual atoms, they were stunned. Some atoms sat in the wrong place, while others had gone missing entirely. As many as 1 in 100 lattice sites had some problem, impeding the lattice’s ability to direct electrons.
I point to this one as being directly germane to the LK99 case, where the method of manufacturing the material was so simple that I read early predictions that there would be a flood of failed replications due to how much variation the methods allowed for and how even amateurs could attempt it. It may still be the case that confirmation is blocked on a consistent procedure for making the stuff.
They also spent years figuring out how to lift and stack the microscopic flakes, which measure just tenths of millionths of a meter across. With this ability, plus Hone’s crystals and improved electrical contacts, everything came together in 2018.
This looks like a problem that could be tackled right now for LK99 and the proposed similar materials.