What technologies have developed as a result of superconductivity?

Superconductors Read more from
Chapter Electricity

Three American physicists, John Bardeen, Leon N. Cooper, and John R. Schrieffer, explained why superconductivity occurs in metals and alloys. Their development of the BCS theory for superconductivity was cited when they won the Nobel Prize in 1972.

Fifteen years later, two other physicists won the Nobel Prize for discovering superconductive materials that achieved zero resistance at temperatures thought to be too high for superconductors. Physicists Georg Bednorz and Alex MĂĽller of IBM found that a ceramic substance called lanthanum barium copper oxide became a superconductor at 35 kelvins. This was a much higher temperature than anyone thought possible at the time.

Superconductors are most commonly used in large electromagnets. With no resistance, once the current is started, it will continue forever without change. Therefore the magnets dissipate no power and do not heat up. These magnets are most often used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines. An MRI allows a doctor to view the inside of the human body without using harmful radiation. They are also used in particle accelerators that reveal the fundamental structure of matter by smashing the nuclei of atoms together. The most powerful accelerator is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland. Another application of superconductivity is the SQUID (Superconducting QUantum Interference Device) that is an extremely sensitive detector of magnetic fields used in geological sensors for locating underground oil.


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