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Superconductivity and the Future

How will superconductivity impact the future?
© University of Wollongong, 2019

There is a lot of speculation about superconductivity and its future as there is a lot we still don’t know about the materials and the phenomena itself.

In the research and engineering communities there is hope that superconductive materials will be employed in:

  • long-range power transmission, without any losses along the way
  • magnetically levitating (mag-lev) trains, which will use less energy to transport us and transport goods, as they will have much lower resistance (1).

Are superconductors achieving their full potential?

Superconductors are however far away from achieving their potential.

The most used superconducting materials today are low temperature superconductors, which require liquid helium to achieve their superconducting transition temperature.

In recent years, new superconducting materials have been produced, including “High Temperature Superconductors” (HTS), which only requires liquid nitrogen (-196 °C or -320 °F) to induce superconductivity, not liquid helium (-269 °C or -453 °F).

Liquid nitrogen is much cheaper than liquid helium. Also, some of the major problems with HTS materials available today are that they are brittle ceramics, are not easily formed into wires or other useful shapes and are expensive to manufacture.

Looking for new HTS, and even RTS (room temperature superconductor) materials, as well as potential applications, are key for research into superconductors.

Conversation Starter

Superconductors, as with all the other materials we have covered, aren’t new technologies and although there is clearly progress made in research and innovation, there is still much room for improvement.

Why do you think it takes such a long time to achieve practical outcomes from these discoveries?  

References

  1. Loeffler, J. Superconductivity: What is it and why it matters to our future, Interesting engineering, [Internet]. 2019 February 14, [cited 2019 10 June] Available from: Interesting engineering (web link)
© University of Wollongong, 2019
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