High-temperature superconductivity is turning 25 years old.
In 1986, two IBM scientists—J. Georg Bednorz and K. Alex Muller—discovered superconductivity in an oxide material at -397 deg F. That temperature was 50 percent higher than the previous mark. Superconductivity was discovered in 1911 by Heike Kamerlingh Onnes, a Dutch physicist. Onnes discovered that superconductivity occurs when metals like tin and lead are cooled to absolute zero (-459.67 deg F).
Just a year after that discovery, Bednorz and Muller were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics. Indeed, the high-temp superconductivity discovery had applications in measurement technology, electrotechnology and microelectronics.
Applications today include:
- Magnetic-resonance imaging (MRI) scanners.
- American Superconductor is using high-temp superconductor wire for energy efficient cables (right). These lines are being used in the Tres Amigas Project, which connects three power grids to create a renewable energy market.
- Magnetic Levitating Trains, which are being tested in Asia. These trains use magnets to levitate above the steel rails.