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If mercury is cooled below 4.1 K, it loses all electric resistance. This discovery of superconductivity by H. Kammerlingh Onnes in 1911 was followed by the observation of other metals which exhibit zero resistivity below a certain critical temperature. The fact that the resistance is zero has been demonstrated by sustaining currents in superconducting lead rings for many years with no measurable reduction. An induced current in an ordinary metal ring would decay rapidly from the dissipation of ordinary resistance, but superconducting rings had exhibited a decay constant of over a billion years! One of the properties of a superconductor is that it will exclude magnetic fields, a phenomenon called the Meissner effect.The disappearance of electrical resistivity was modeled in terms of electron pairing in the crystal lattice by John Bardeen, Leon Cooper, and Robert Schrieffer in what is commonly called the BCS theory. A new era in the study of superconductivity began in 1986 with the discovery of high critical temperature superconductors.
History of Superconductivity
Before you hear Bob Schrieffer tell about some of the highlights of the work he did with John Bardeen and Leon Cooper - work that led to an explanation of superconductivity — I want to tell you a bit about superconductivity and why their achievement was one of the major scientific events of the 20th century. First of all: what is superconductivity? It's an absolutely remarkable phenomenon discovered in 1911 by a student working with the famous Dutch scientist, Kamerlingh-Onnes. KamerlinghOnnes pioneered work at very low temperatures — temperatures just a few degrees above the absolute zero of temperature. He succeeded in reaching temperatures much colder than anyone Charlie Slichter before him, and thus opened a new frontier for science — a field of science previously unexplored, the field of low temperature physics. He and his students set to work to study what happened to various properties of materials when they were that cold. One of his students was studying the electrical resistance of wires. He found that as he cooled mercury wire the electrical resistance of the wire took a precipitous drop when he got to about 3.6 degrees above absolute zero. The drop was enormous - the resistance became at least twenty thousand times smaller. The drop took place over a temperature interval too small for them to measure. As far as they could tell, the electrical resistance completely vanished.
To test for the complete vanishing of the electrical resistance, Kamerlingh-Onnes devised an ingenious experiment. He took a closed circle of mercury wire and caused a current to flow around the circle. With his experimental arrangement one would expect ordinarily that resistance would cause the current to die out quickly, much as friction and air resistance cause a bicycle coasting on a level road to come to a stop. He found that for a loop of mercury wire the current, once started, would persist for as long as the wire was kept cold. The persistence of the electrical current in the circuit is a kind of perpetual motion — it's a totally startling phenomenon for physicists. H. Kamerlingh-Onnes Physicists understand quite well why an ordinary metal resisted the flow of electric current — why, so to speak, the electrons experienced friction in flowing through a conductor — yet something must go wrong with those ideas when the metal becomes superconducting, in order to allow the persistent seemingly-frictionless flow of current in the superconductor. The general picture scientists had was that the resistance arises because moving electrons — which are what produce the electric current — from time to time bump into the atoms of the metal and are deflected. Thus, though they may be given an initial motion through the crystal, that motion does not persist. It's like trying to throw a baseball through a grove of trees. It bounces off the trees and comes to rest. The vanishing of electrical resistance seems analogous to requiring that the grove of trees vanish — and explaining superconductivity is like explaining why the grove appears to vanish. Remember, it's not fair for physicists to take magic as a reason! The fact is that below a certain temperature many metals enter into a new state of matter: the superconducting state. Just suppose you knew water only as a liquid - how curious you'd be when you discovered its transition into a new state of matter: ice. You can well imagine that the explanation of this phenomenon of persistent current challenged the very best theoretical minds. Yet superconductivity remained an enigma for decades. Many of the world's greatest scientists tried to solve the mystery of the perpetual motion, but without success - at least five Nobel Prize winners. John Bardeen tried unsuccessfully shortly after finishing graduate school. [Bardeen talks about this here.] Even while working on semiconductors - and sharing in the discovery of the transistor - the challenge of superconductivity kept nagging at him in the back of his mind. There was really no chance for any of the theorists to solve this problem at the time of discovery because before one could explain it, one had to have the quantum theory in the form that Schrödinger and Heisenberg developed, which didn't take place until the 1920's. For a long time the phenomenon of superconductivity was characterized by the statement that the electrical resistance vanished completely.
However, in 1933 Meissner and Ochsenfeld discovered another property of superconductors, which is in fact believed by many to be an even more basic characterization. This phenomenon, which is popularly called the Meissner effect, has to do with the magnetism of a superconductor. You're no doubt familiar with the fact that iron has remarkable magnetic properties. Iron tends to draw to it the lines of magnetic force of a magnet. That's why iron is often used to make electromagnets. It helps to guide the magnetic lines of force around in space where you wish to have them. The superconductor is just the opposite. It's what is called a perfect diamagnet. A superconductor excludes the lines of magnetic force. If you bring a Walther Meissner small bar magnet up to a superconductor, the superconductor bends the lines of force away from it and doesn't allow them to penetrate. Around 1935 another important theoretical advance in understanding superconductivity was made by Fritz London and his brother Heinz. In an ordinary metal we describe the phenomenon of electrical resistance by the famous Ohm's law. What the London brothers did was to show that there was another mathematical relationship which should be used in place of Ohm's law to describe superconductors. From this other relationship which they developed, they were able to explain both the Meissner-Ochsenfeld experiment as well as the persistent current of Kamerlingh-Onnes as two manifestations of the same thing. I suppose in some ways the single most important experiment which directly played a role in guiding the way to an explanation of superconductivity was the experiment on the "isotope effect." This occurred in 1950 and, as so often happens in science, papers from two laboratories simultaneously revealed the same results. One paper told of the work of Reynolds, Serin, Wright and Nesbitt at Rutgers [University]. The other was by Maxwell working at the [National] Bureau of Standards. You know that the same chemical element may come with different nuclear masses - socalled isotopes. What these workers did was to prepare samples of material - in this case mercury - with their isotopic masses varying by a few percent between different samples. They found that the critical temperature for the superconducting transition was lower in the sample which had the higher isotopic mass. In fact the critical temperature was inversely proportional to the square root of the average isotopic mass of the substance. Well, this tells you that the mass of the nuclei was playing some role in the phenomenon of superconductivity. Physicists are quite familiar with expressions which involve the square root of a mass. Suppose you think of a spring with a mass attached to it. If you give the mass a little push it will vibrate and the frequency of that vibration goes inversely with the square root of the mass. You may wonder what a mass and a spring has to do with superconductivity. Well, the connection is simple. If you want to have a simple picture of a solid you might think of it as a regular array of atoms - for example, think of a jungle gym and think of the intersections of the points on the jungle gym as representing the positions of the atom. In a jungle gym the joining points of course are rigidly spaced apart by the rods of the jungle gym, but in a solid it's probably a better approximation to think that the atoms which are joined together are not rigidly attached, and in fact the distance between them can be varied a little bit if you squeeze on the solid or pull on it. It's probably a good approximation to think of the solid as consisting of a bunch of masses - the masses of the atom - joined together by a set of springs. If you
think of the solid in this manner then you realize that if you gave the solid a little poke you would set all those masses jiggling and all the springs vibrating. In any ordinary solid, this kind of jiggling phenomenon is always present unless you are at absolute zero. It goes by the name of the lattice vibrations. So what the isotopic experiments we've just talked about showed was that although the electrical conductivity was known to arise because of the motion of the electrons, there's some role of these lattice vibrations. They enable the electrons suddenly to move through the lattice, evidently without hindrance, when the sample is cooled to the critical superconducting temperature. The next big experimental discovery was done by two groups: Goodman, who was making thermal conductivity experiments, and Brown, Zemansky and Boorse, who were making specific heat measurements. They discovered what is called the energy gap. I must confess that I find explaining the energy gap the most difficult part of the explanation of superconductivity. You have to be patient with me while I back up a bit to get us all together in our concepts. You're all familiar with the way in which one builds up the periodic table by adding electrons to an atom. As one does this, one thinks of orbits of an atom which one fills with electrons. The unique chemical properties are associated with the extent to which an orbit is full or empty. Here the electrons can go only into certain orbits and only one electron can go into any given orbit. This exclusive property of electrons was first noted by Wolfgang Pauli, after whom the phenomenon is named: the Pauli Exclusion Principle. It's of great importance throughout all of physics and it plays an important role in understanding superconductors. Now, when we talk about a metal and we think of putting the electrons in it, we can get a pretty good picture if we think of those electrons as bouncing around inside the metal - the metal being, so to speak, like a box. We can think of the electrons very much as we think of the atoms of a gas which are bouncing around inside whatever container the gas is in. In an ordinary classical view of the world - the way people thought before the quantum theory was discovered - we would say that if we got the metal very cold, the electrons would be moving around rather slowly, and in fact they'd Wolfgang Pauli come to rest when one got to absolute zero. That would be a proper description of things were it not for the Pauli exclusion principal. The fact is that when electrons are in a metal, they can possess certain orbits in much the same way as electrons in an atom can possess only certain orbits. One way of thinking about these orbits is that some electrons move slowly, some move somewhat faster and some move even faster. The orbits which are possible can be specified by the speed and the direction in which the electrons are allowed to move. If we then start putting electrons into a metal to achieve the situation at absolute zero, the first electron we would put in would go into the lowest energy orbit, the next would go into a somewhat higher energy orbit, and so on until we had put in the proper number of electrons. Those last ones we put in have a good deal more energy than
At the same time. he was stimulated to work again on the problem of superconductivity. Zemansky and Boorse on specific heat. Suppose you had to give them a really large chunk of energy before their motion could change. The experimental evidence was clear. suppose we think about what happens in this metal if we were to heat it a bit above the absolute zero. The energy which they have relative to the first one is commonly called the "Fermi energy. So if you heat the metal. because the orbits of somewhat higher energy are already occupied by other electrons. He had in fact worked on it at various earlier times and always kept it in the back of his mind. if you try to give it more energy it has a problem." after Enrico Fermi who first calculated its value. Of course. but he guessed that lattice vibrations might play a similar role. they are free to speed up a little bit and thus go into an orbit which is just a bit above the orbit in which they used to be. That's what we mean when we say a physicist has great physical intuition. This energy gap was discovered in the experiments of Goodman on thermal conductivity and Brown. he is still right for the most part. By then some more clues had been found. although scientists had accumulated a number of facts about the new state of matter.the first ones. Meanwhile. It was in the early 1950's when John Bardeen decided to work again on the problem of superconductivity. But now let's talk about those electrons which have the Fermi energy . let's go back a bit to the discovery of the isotope effect in 1950. you give a little more energy to all its parts.that is to say. . Then one has described what is called a gap in the spectrum of the possible energy states. both of them said John Bardeen they thought an essential portion of the problem had to do with what happened to the electrons whose energy was equal to the Fermi energy. However. Bardeen and Fröhlich independently put forward theories of superconductivity which later on turned out to be incorrect. Those electrons have nearby energy orbits which are not occupied by electrons. But. the British physicist Fröhlich was very interested in superconductivity. to some extent. He'd not known about the isotope effect. Bardeen is such a great physicist that even when he's wrong. The electrons are no exception. Now. This brings us to the point of the energy gap. When John Bardeen heard about it. This is the situation which exists in superconductors. Think of one of those electrons which initially has a rather low amount of energy. they were the last ones to get added into the energy states and the ones therefore which are moving around most rapidly. This same argument applies to most of the electrons. There is in fact a continuous set of energies available to those electrons at the Fermi energy. but I won't explain them since it would take too long. Now. Suppose there weren't any states which were available close by. no one had been able to put it all together and provide a theoretical explanation for it. suppose they had to pay. so they can gradually add energy as the metal is warmed. so to speak. Suppose instead of having the situation I've just described in which one could give those electrons of the Fermi energy just a little bit more energy. When you heat something. and the Pauli Principle does not let this electron switch over into an orbit which is already occupied. an entrance fee to gain energy.
the molecules physically come together to form little droplets of water. That's an example of a condensation . one would very likely have the explanation of superconductivity. It's clear when one considers the papers Bardeen was writing and the thinking he was doing at that time that he was very close to the solution of the problem of superconductivity. Bardeen then analyzed what happened to that metal when a magnetic field was applied to it. At this point Bardeen had come to the University of Illinois from Bell Laboratories. He knew it involved the interactions of the electrons with the lattice. there sure are a lot of explanations involved in superconductivity! The fact is that this is a tough subject and you're beginning to get a feel for why it is that people like Niels Bohr. describing the exclusion of a magnetic field by a superconductor.in the summertime we've all had the experience that if you have a drink with ice in it. Richard Feynman. Now. He knew it involved an energy gap. we think about condensation in real space. he studied the details of the interactions of the electrons with the lattice vibrations and with one another. Felix Bloch. oh boy. William Shockley and Walter Brattain had invented the transistor. I can't help but thinking. and in Bob Schrieffer's tape you'll notice the reference to Bardeen going off to Stockholm to receive the Prize. the Londons. Phase transitions are something that we're all familiar with. To illustrate that . What's involved is simply that the water vapor which is always present in the air is no longer permitted to remain there when it's in contact with something that is as cold as the surface of the glass. usually when we think about phase transitions. it's difficult. Lev Landau. these three men won the Nobel Prize for that invention in 1956. Bardeen went back to work on further aspects of superconductivity to try to take the problem apart more thoroughly. and that is that superconductivity is a phase transition of a very special kind. That is to say . Bardeen was jointly a professor of physics and a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana.After these theories proved to be unsuccessful. There. Well.instead of having some states which we know are present in a normal metal. So now I want to explain just what we mean by such a condensation. He said: suppose we consider that a superconductor is nothing but a normal metal in which we have introduced an energy gap.that is to say. That's why people use coasters. I suppose the most common ones we all know are the melting of snow or ice or the vaporizing of water into steam. Almost all the time when physicists think about condensation. By the way. Bardeen made the statement at that time that if one could find the reason for the energy gap. At this point Bardeen proved a tremendously important theorem. and that's why we find that even an effort at an elementary description of what happened is a pretty tough thing to listen to as well. There was one other thing which he knew as well. they naturally revert to condensations in real space. He had a very deep and intuitive feeling for exactly what was taking place. Werner Heisenberg. . that you are sitting there scratching your head and feeling.condensation in real space . one would simply omit those orbits from the calculations and proceed from there. and others who are just brilliant physicists worked on this problem all those years and in fact didn't succeed in cracking the problem. and the water molecules prefer to gather together to form the droplets of liquid on the cold surface of the glass. where he. a type which is called a condensation in velocity or momentum space. with David Pines. however. water condenses on the outside of the glass. He succeeded in showing that he was able to derive an equation very similar to the London equation. slightly higher in energy than the energy of the electron with the Fermi energy.
" This is a slightly abstract idea. electrons with the lattice vibrations were evidently critical in making the phenomenon occur. And then. one day early in 1957. When you think about an east-west highway you might say that the velocity of the cars are condensed at two particular points in velocity space. He's a quiet and a modest man. although their positions are scattered. and 3: the interactions of the conduction. Bardeen's theoretical work in the early 1950's had stimulated my student Chuck Hebel and me to undertake a new kind of experiment on superconductivity. Then all the children suddenly start running towards the doorway from all over the playground. Contrast that with a condensation in real space where they assume nearly the same positions. who pointed out that this was almost surely involved in superconductivity. You can imagine how excited I was! . they pick up speed until they're driving at the speed limit. and Schrieffer were working on the explanation of superconductivity. The fact that this condensation takes place in velocity space was first recognized by Fritz London. I may have been the first person apart from the three of them to know they'd actually solved it. They have nearly the same velocity. And thus we see a condensation of velocity even though the positions are widely separated. Cooper and Schrieffer got together at the University of Illinois. which by and large they do at the speed limit. That is the kind of condensation that takes place in superconductivity. 2: there was an energy gap. Suppose the bell rings signifying that recess is over. What is meant by a condensation in velocity space is that a whole bunch of objects assume nearly the same velocities. I think we've finally figured out superconductivity. The electrons condense in velocity space. Think of another example think of the cars driving along a superhighway. That then represented the situation in the knowledge of superconductivity when Bardeen. it is the condensation in what one could call "velocity space. and as different cars enter the superhighway from the entrance ramps. Our results were surprising. He seemed to stand there almost for hours before he spoke. and we'd been to John to talk about them. And then he said. Note that you can condense their velocities without condensing their positions. John Bardeen stopped me in the hall of the physics building. running back and forth and scattered around on the playground." This was one of the great scientific announcements of the century. but there are very concrete ways to illustrate it. And it was clear he wanted to talk. There were three critical elements — 1: there was a condensation in velocity space. What happens is that. suddenly they're all running in the same direction. Cooper. I have to count it as one of the luckiest things in my life that I happened to be working as an experimenter in the field of superconductivity here at the University of Illinois back in 1955 to '57. namely the speed limit going east and the speed limit going west. "Well.But the kind of condensation which is important for superconductivity is the condensation in another sort of space. To visualize a condensation of velocities think for example of a playground with a whole bunch of children playing in all different portions of it. All up and down the superhighway there are automobiles miles apart all going the same direction at the same speed. just at the time that Bardeen.
You've got to decide which piece to tackle. and William Shockley invented the transistor. Meanwhile. John Bardeen came to Illinois in the early 1950's from Bell Laboratories where he. Now. J. When it came time for a thesis. Actually this tack did not lead Schrieffer to anything useful. When he reached graduation time. Bardeen suggested he familiarize himself with the theoretical work Keith Brueckner had recently done on the nuclei of atoms. So Cooper studied the general theories of quantum mechanics to see under what circumstances gaps arose. one would most likely be close to the heart of the explanation of superconductivity. Nuclei. and in the process he'd learned a set of mathematical techniques for what is called quantum field theory. like metals. Bob Schrieffer was at the University of Illinois as a graduate student. Now. in a totally different area of physics. You could say Bardeen called in a quantum mechanic from the East. consist of many particles close together interacting strongly. Leon Cooper had recently completed his PhD. As a warm-up. He'd become quite expert in this and was viewed as one of the best young men in that general area. Bardeen suggested some work on semiconductors. Cooper set about trying to explain the existence of the energy gap.I'd like to tell you just a few things about this trio that cracked the problem of superconductivity. Experiments on thermal conductivity and heat capacity had shown that superconductors had what is known as an energy gap. I should point out to you that if you start with a system which represents a normal metal. and you introduce some sort of interaction which is going to cause the transition to a superconductor. So he invited Cooper to come to Urbana from the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Bardeen felt it might be important to know these techniques in order to tackle the problem of superconductivity. he decided that the man he'd most like to do his graduate work with was John Bardeen. He decided to pick a highly simplified physical model of the . Schrieffer began to work with Bardeen. Here's where the role of judgment and physical intuition is paramount. the first major breakthrough this trio made in Leon Cooper superconductivity came from Leon Cooper. Bardeen's own work had shown that if one could understand why there was an energy gap. working in a group of solid state physicists. Walter Brattain. He had completed his undergraduate studies at MIT. Robert Schrieffer Leon Cooper was making an effort to find out why there was an energy gap. Scientists often crack a tough problem by judiciously unraveling one part of the mystery at a time. Schrieffer chose to work on superconductivity. so Bardeen hoped that theoretical methods helpful to nuclear physicists might help on the problem of superconductivity. it's not easy to find a situation in which a gap of energy occurs.
The interacting pairs of electrons have since been known as "Cooper pairs" after their discoverer. When one electron was there and the ions pulled together. one must understand that a large amount of the problem yet remained unsolved. . What you have to do is find how to fit those pieces together in just such a way that they all simultaneously go together in a favorable manner. taking into account two aspects which Pines and Bardeen had delineated. the two electrons had a net attraction and an energy gap was formed. The problem is somewhat analogous to one of those complicated three-dimensional puzzles which one attempts to assemble. because they're particles of the same charge. these ions are attracted to the electron and thus pull somewhat closer together than they would be if the electrons were not there. He found that there was a delicate balance between repulsion of the electrons because they are of the same electrical charge. Thus he was led to the conclusion that superconductivity arose when the attractive interaction of one electron for the other. He said: let's just consider the interactions of two electrons. those states were not available in any way for the two electrons whose interactions he wished to study. they would find that although they could make two electrons interact favorably with one another. As we mentioned previously. and the attraction brought about by the lattice distortions we've just described. because a real metal has many electrons in it. Since those electrons are occupying those states. which contained the positive nuclei with their masses kept apart by their springs. and that the interaction was energetically favorable . Instead. because he had considered the interaction of only a single pair of electrons. He found a very clever way of simplifying this problem. and the two pieces you already have interfere with adding it. whereas in a real metal there are many interacting electrons something like 1023. That was exactly the problem that was posed to Bardeen. quite typically what that did was to make them interact with a third or fourth electron unfavorably. Cooper and Schrieffer set about trying to generalize Cooper's results to the problem of many interacting electrons. it made that point in space somewhat more favorable for a second electron to be there also. one could say that in this way one had an interaction of one electron with another by means of the lattice.to make a many-body theory out of it. it's not proper to think of the lattice as being totally rigid. This then became a criterion for superconductivity. At this point Bardeen. and that when the lattice distortion term was somewhat larger. but he said the most important thing which they did was to occupy all the low energy states . it was an attraction. This paper was published in 1956 and is one of the famous papers in the history of superconductivity. when you bring an electron in between two of the positive ions. He then examined what happened to these two electrons. but then when you try to get the third piece in. Cooper succeeded in solving the problem of the electrons interacting in the two ways I've described. through the lattice. Important as the step was which Cooper made. When you try to put the puzzle together you may find you may have a couple of pieces that fit. the trouble was that when they tried to put together solutions. was larger than the direct repulsion. That is . Cooper and Schrieffer. and the fact there are so many particles interacting presents overwhelming complexities.that is to say the states which were filled up to the Fermi energy. The first was that the electrons repelled one another. Now all the other electrons are present in the problem and we have to take account of them.that is to say. it won't fit. Since the pulling together was due to one electron. Now.system. The second thing was that the electrons are moving through this lattice.
That led to a conversation in the car in which various people recollected their reactions. riding in an automobile from New Hampshire to Boston. One member of the group told about a confession made to him by another truly great scientist. and I think it illustrates the true nature of science. . But in a short period of time theorists were able to straighten those matters out and become satisfied that indeed the theory was correct. to be able to bring himself to the point where he could sit down and really seriously study the Bardeen. But the resistance to the theory was not solely because people were disappointed in not having solved the problem. He had to wait until one day when he himself had solved a particularly tough problem." One might have supposed that a theory which was as successful as this one would have closed the field and allowed physics to move on to other things. Cooper and Schrieffer has been an enormous stimulus to work on superconductivity. It's interesting however. and felt in a real mood of elation. There's a marvelous quote which illustrates this. It's like assembling one of those three-dimensional puzzles. The theory was published in the spring of 1957. The form of the solution which he found turned out to be especially simple when expressed in a highly ingenious mathematical form. I remember. the nature of the solution at absolute zero. But within one year they were successful. and he told of the enormous disappointment he felt when he found that someone else solved the problem. in fact. returning from a conference on solid state physics. In fact the original work of Bardeen. You can well imagine the feverish activity which then followed as the three attempted to generalize the solution to the higher temperatures. Cooper. Cooper and Schrieffer published saying they had solved the problem. The trio then felt they were hot on the trail. Leon Cooper and Bob Schrieffer got the Nobel Prize in physics for their theory of superconductivity. and to show that in fact they could account for all of the facts of superconductivity. The theory created a great flurry among the theorists as well.The break came when Bob Schrieffer succeeded in guessing. but couldn't bring himself to read the paper. too. But they still had lots to do. when David Schonberg remarked at the Cambridge [England] conference on superconductivity in 1959. in essence. This theory accounted for essentially all of the known experimental facts of superconductivity. because it had such success in explaining their experimental results. When the theory first came out. They understood that a single Cooper pair was unstable. it had some aspects which people questioned. And that constitutes the phase transition from a normal metal into a superconductor. the other electrons in the neighborhood would want to pair off. In 1972 John Bardeen. who said that when he first saw the account that Bardeen. How was it greeted? Experimenters greeted the theory with great acclaim. "Let us see to what extent the experiments fit the theoretical facts. he looked at it just closely enough to be able to see that it looked right. Schrieffer solution. Schrieffer in his description tells about their work carrying through to the final solution. In the car with us was one of the truly great physicists of the time who'd worked on the problem. that many of the theorists felt a surge of disappointment that someone else solved this exciting problem. At the critical temperature — in their full explanation — the other electrons all do so. That is. That was not the case. They knew how to handle any two electrons — but a metal has many more than just two.
You will see that getting to a new theory may take not just one "Moment of Discovery" but a string of dozens of such moments among many people. Cooper & Schrieffer receiving honorary degrees from the University of Illinois. only to crumple the paper and hurl it at a wastebasket.. they uncovered the forces that light the stars. listen to Bob Schrieffer. In the decades after this strange discovery. To get the full background. the youngest of the team. and still nobody had explained that little floating wire. You can also read a detailed account by a historian of physics. you can read or listen to how a noted physicist saw the story from an outside perspective. tell what happened in his own words. 1974 Superconductivity: So simple. . and explore other supplementary materials. The current can persist. yet so hard to explain! For half a century the world’s most brilliant physics theorists tried scribbling equations. make it as cold as you possibly can. and it will float there until the end of the world. This exhibit tells how three extraordinary minds worked together to finally solve the puzzle. For a personal account.Bardeen. Bend a metal wire into a circle. they cracked open the atomic nucleus. They worked out equations to calculate all the colors and chemistry of the natural world. physicists figured out the laws of relativity and quantum mechanics.. Put the circle of wire above a magnet. and set an electric current moving around it.
Element --------------. Already. he discovered that its resistance dropped to nothing just below the boiling point of helium. This way. happens with certain liquids (especially liquid helium). The critical temperatures for a few common substances are shown here in this table.20 Cadmium --------. but much progress has been made in developing "high-temperature" superconductors which superconduct at warmer temperatures. Kamerlingh Onnes at the University of Leiden.Conductors lose all of their electrical resistance when cooled to super-low temperatures (near absolute zero. Temperatures are given in kelvins. whose ideal characteristics are normally spoiled by inherent wire resistances.(K) ========================================================== Aluminum -------. rather. about -273o Celsius). If conductor resistance could be eliminated entirely. It must be understood that superconductivity is not merely an extrapolation of most conductors' tendency to gradually lose resistance with decreasing temperature. which has the same incremental span as degrees Celsius (an increase or decrease of 1 kelvin is the same amount of temperature change as 1o Celsius). There is some debate over exactly how and why superconducting materials superconduct. Netherlands in 1911. barium. Superconductivity was first discovered by H.56 . there would be no power losses or inefficiencies in electric power systems due to stray resistances. Components such as capacitors and inductors. resulting in frictionless flow of molecules. another phenomenon of super-cold temperatures. and oxygen which transitions at a relatively balmy -160o Celsius.1. superfluidity. or at least within the range of inexpensive refrigeration equipment. only offset so that 0 K is absolute zero. One theory holds that electrons group together and travel in pairs (called Cooper pairs) within a superconductor rather than travel independently. Superconductivity promises extraordinary capabilities for electric circuits. and that has something to do with their frictionless flow. Transition temperatures for "classic" superconductors are in the cryogenic range (near absolute zero). Onnes had developed a method of liquefying helium gas. A superconducting material has absolutely zero electrical resistance. a superconductor should be able to operate within the range of ambient temperatures. Deciding to investigate changes in electrical resistance of mercury when cooled to this low of a temperature. not just some small amount. quantum leap in resistivity from finite to nothing. which provided a medium with which to supercool experimental objects to just a few degrees above absolute zero. in 1908. could be made ideal in a practical sense. Electric motors could be made almost perfectly (100%) efficient. The threshold temperature for a superconductor to switch from normal conduction to superconductivity is called the transition temperature. motors. One type is a ceramic mixture of yttrium. copper. Material Element/Alloy Critical temp. some practical superconducting conductors. we don't have to deal with a lot of negative figures. and capacitors have been developed. Just three years earlier.Element --------------. Ideally. it is a sudden.0. Interestingly enough. but their use at this present time is limited due to the practical problems intrinsic to maintaining super-cold temperatures.
Element --------------Titanium -------. there will still be a limit of how much current could practically go through that wire due to its critical magnetic field limit.Element --------------Zinc -----------.Element --------------Uranium --------. It is even possible to order superconductivity kits from educational suppliers which can be operated in high school labs (liquid nitrogen not included). the colder you have to make the material before it will superconduct. While in the superconducting state. In a superconducting short-circuit. Typically. since electric current through any conductor produces a magnetic field.Alloy ---------------Cupric sulphide . In other words.Element --------------Thorium --------.0 0.Element --------------Niobium/Tin -----. the superconducting material will be rendered non-superconductive. which only requires liquid nitrogen to cool. a superconducting material will tend to exclude all magnetic fields. especially since the recent (1987) advent of the yttrium-barium-copper-oxygen ceramic.6 Superconducting materials also interact in interesting ways with magnetic fields. suspending a tiny magnet in mid-air over a superconducting disk cooled by a bath of liquid nitrogen. the presence of any magnetic field tends to lower the critical temperature of any superconducting material: the more magnetic field present. it is possible to maintain large currents indefinitely with zero applied voltage! .Element --------------Niobium --------.2 4.Lead -----------.Element --------------Tin ------------.16 8.39 1.1 1.Element --------------Mercury --------.Compound -------------- 7. superconducting materials will lose their superconductivity (no matter how cold you make them) if exposed to too strong of a magnetic field. a phenomenon known as the Meissner effect.72 0. There are already a few industrial applications of superconductors.37 3. The zero resistance offered by superconducting circuits leads to unique consequences. these kits exhibit superconductivity by the Meissner effect. However. This is another practical limitation to superconductors in circuit design.70 1. Even though a superconducting wire would have zero resistance to oppose current. if the magnetic field strength intensifies beyond a critical level. as opposed to liquid helium. In fact.91 18.
its resistance suddenly disappeared. If you're thinking this appears to be a form of perpetual motion. 4 degrees Kelvin (-452F. all a perpetual motion machine (like the superconducting ring) would be good for is to store energy. which acts as a relay of sorts. are one of the last great frontiers of scientific discovery. controlling one current with another current (with no moving parts. not generate it freely! Superconductors also offer some strange possibilities having nothing to do with Ohm's Law. In 1911 superconductivity was first observed in mercury by Dutch physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes of Leiden University (shown above). The Kelvin scale represents an . there is no theoretical time limit to how long an unaided current could be sustained in a superconducting circuit. -269C). materials that have no resistance to the flow of electricity. Not only have the limits of superconductivity not yet been reached. The small size and fast switching time of Josephson Junctions may lead to new computer circuit designs: an alternative to using semiconductor transistors. One such possibility is the construction of a device called a Josephson Junction. Superconductors Superconductors. When he cooled it to the temperature of liquid helium. of course). So far as anyone knows. rather. At best. the prohibition stands against any machine or system generating more energy than it consumes (what would be referred to as an over-unity device). you're correct! Contrary to popular belief. but the theories that explain superconductor behavior seem to be constantly under review. there is no law of physics prohibiting perpetual motion.Rings of superconducting material have been experimentally proven to sustain continuous current for years with no applied voltage.
particle-accelerator electromagnets made of copper-clad niobium-titanium were then developed in the 1960s at the Rutherford-Appleton Laboratory in the UK. In 1953 vanadium-silicon displayed superconductive properties at 17. But. he won a Nobel Prize in physics for his research in this area. in 1913. Later.causing the magnet to be repulsed. This is the principle on which the electric generator operates. an alloy of niobium and titanium (NbTi). The Meissner effect is so strong that a magnet can actually be levitated over a superconductive material. And. In 1941 niobium-nitride was found to superconduct at 16 K. German researchers Walther Meissner (above left) and Robert Ochsenfeld (above right) discovered that a superconducting material will repel a magnetic field (below graphic). In subsequent decades other superconducting metals.5 K. The next great milestone in understanding how matter behaves at extreme cold temperatures occurred in 1933. Thus."absolute" scale of temperature. alloys and compounds were discovered. This phenomenon is known as strong diamagnetism and is today often referred to as the "Meissner effect" (an eponym). A magnet moving by a conductor induces currents in the conductor. in 1962 scientists at Westinghouse developed the first commercial superconducting wire. . High-energy. it was necessary for Onnes to come within 4 degrees of the coldest temperature that is theoretically attainable to witness the phenomenon of superconductivity. in a superconductor the induced currents exactly mirror the field that would have otherwise penetrated the superconducting material . and were first employed in a superconducting accelerator at the Fermilab Tevatron in the US in 1987.
predicted that electrical current would flow between 2 superconducting materials . The mathematically-complex BCS theory explained superconductivity at temperatures close to absolute zero for elements and simple alloys.and won them a Nobel prize in 1972.2K transition temperature (known as Tc) and subjected to high pressure to superconduct. Leon Cooper.) The 1980's were a decade of unrivaled discovery in the field of superconductivity. His prediction was later confirmed and won him a share of the 1973 Nobel Prize in Physics.The first widely-accepted theoretical understanding of superconductivity was advanced in 1957 by American physicists John Bardeen. its mere existence proved the possibility of "designer" molecules . This tunneling phenomenon is today known as the "Josephson effect" and has been applied to electronic devices such as the SQUID. Josephson (above). Another significant theoretical advancement came in 1962 when Brian D.even when they are separated by a non-superconductor or insulator.derived from the first letter of each man's last name . at higher temperatures and with different superconductor systems. an instrument capabable of detecting even the weakest magnetic fields. But. Their Theories of Superconductivity became know as the BCS theory . In 1964 Bill Little of Stanford University had suggested the possibility of organic (carbonbased) superconductors. However. the BCS theory has subsequently become inadequate to fully explain how superconductivity is occurring. (Below SQUID graphic courtesy Quantum Design. . and John Schrieffer (above). (TMTSF)2PF6 had to be cooled to an incredibly cold 1. a graduate student at Cambridge University. The first of these theoretical superconductors was successfully synthesized in 1980 by Danish researcher Klaus Bechgaard of the University of Copenhagen and 3 French team members.molecules fashioned to perform in a predictable way.
making the discovery even more noteworthy.and often toxic elements in the base perovskite ceramic. and H.000 atmospheres. For the first time a material (today referred to as YBCO) had been found that would superconduct at temperatures warmer than liquid nitrogen . Guo. In January of 1987 a research team at the University of Alabama-Huntsville substituted Yttrium for Lanthanum in the Müller and Bednorz molecule and achieved an incredible 92 K Tc. R. Calcium. Additional milestones have since been achieved using exotic . Müller and Bednorz' discovery triggered a flurry of activity in the field of superconductivity. It was later found that tiny amounts of this material were actually superconducting at 58 K. Switzerland. over a half-dozen such compounds have been found. a truly breakthrough discovery was made in the field of superconductivity. Conventional wisdom held that a material with such properties could not exist! Since then. The current class (or "system") of ceramic superconductors with the highest transition temperatures are the mercuric-cuprates. Alex Müller and Georg Bednorz (above).approximately 25 to 30 degrees more at 300. April 1986. researchers at the IBM Research Laboratory in Rüschlikon. researchers had not considered them as possible hightemperature superconductor candidates. Ott of Zurich. Switzerland. Copper and Oxygen. Ron Goldfarb at the National Institute of Standards and Technology-Colorado in February of 1994. The Tc of this ceramic superconductor was confirmed by Dr. M. Copper and Oxygen compound that Müller and Bednorz synthesized. J.Then. in 1986. Barium. Researchers around the world began "cooking" up ceramics of every imaginable combination in a quest for higher and higher Tc's. So. Under extreme pressure its Tc can be coaxed up even higher .a commonly available coolant. In recent years. behaved in a not-as-yet-understood way. (Original article printed in Zeitschrift für Physik Condensed Matter. What made this discovery so remarkable was that ceramics are normally insulators. Schilling. mercuric-cuprate comprised of the elements Mercury. They don't conduct electricity well at all. due to a small amount of lead having been added as a calibration standard . The first synthesis of one of these compounds was achieved in 1993 at the University of Colorado and by the team of A. . D. The world record Tc of 138 K is now held by a thallium-doped. many discoveries regarding the novel nature of superconductivity have been made. Cantoni. Barium. Recent years have also seen the discovery of the first high-temperature superconductor that does NOT contain any copper (2000).) The discovery of this first of the superconducting copper-oxides (cuprates) won the 2 men a Nobel Prize the following year. created a brittle ceramic compound that superconducted at the highest temperature then known: 30 K. The Lanthanum. Thallium. and the first all-metal perovskite superconductor (2001). In 1997 researchers found that at a temperature very near absolute zero an alloy of gold and indium was both a superconductor and a natural magnet.
The superconductivity exists only below their critical temperatures and below a critical magnetic field strength. They are called Type I superconductors. with Tc's over 50K.Also in 2001 a material that had been sitting on laboratory shelves for decades was found to be an extraordinary new superconductor.ORG discovered that increasing the weight ratios of alternating planes within the layered perovskites can often increase Tc significantly. Type I superconductors are well described by the BCS theory. These iron-based superconductors were first observed by a group of Japanese researchers in 2006. The most recent "family" of superconductors to be discovered is the "pnictides". . including a candidate for a new world record. Laboratory testing has found MgB2 will outperform NbTi and Nb3Sn wires in high magnetic field applications like MRI. Starting in 1930 with lead-bismuth alloys.far above the highest Tc of any of the elemental or binary alloy superconductors. Like the high-Tc copper-oxides. They were found to have much higher critical fields and therefore could carry much higher current densities while remaining in the superconducting state. However. Researchers do agree on one thing: discovery in the field of superconductivity is as much serendipity as it is science. subsequent refinements in the way MgB2 is fabricated have paved the way for its use in industrial applications. clues occasionally appear that contribute to our understanding of the exotic nature of this phenomenon. a number of alloys were found which exhibited superconductivity. In 2005. While 39 K is still well below the Tc's of the "warm" ceramic superconductors. Superconductors. the exact mechanism that facilitates superconductivity in them is a mystery. This has led to the discovery of more than 50 new hightemperature superconductors. Japanese researchers measured the transition temperature of magnesium diboride at 39 Kelvin . Stay tuned! Types I and II Superconductors There are thirty pure metals which exhibit zero resistivity at low temperatures and have the property of excluding magnetic fields from the interior of the superconductor (Meissner effect). they are called Type II superconductors. Though a theory to explain high-temperature superconductivity still eludes modern science. The variations on barium-copper-oxide ceramics which achieved the superconducting state at much higher temperatures are often just referred to as high temperature superconductors and form a class of their own. for example. a great deal of excitement has resulted from their discovery.
BCS theory suggests that electrons team up in "Cooper pairs" in order to help each other overcome molecular obstacles .196 K 4.much like race cars on a track drafting each other in order to go faster.Type 1 Superconductors The Type 1 category of superconductors is mainly comprised of metals and metalloids that show some conductivity at room temperature.41 K 3. copper. silver and gold. do not rank among the superconductive elements. They exhibit a very sharp transition to a superconducting state (see above graph) and "perfect" diamagnetism . Below is a list of known Type 1 superconductors along with the critical transition temperature (known as Tc) below which each superconducts.characterized as the "soft" superconductors . Type 1 superconductors .3 K 3K 2.72 K 3.38 K FCC HEX BCC RHL TET TET (see note 1) (see note 1) HEX .88 K 4. Surprisingly.were discovered first and require the coldest temperatures to become superconductive. Scientists call this process phonon-mediated coupling because of the sound packets generated by the flexing of the crystal lattice.the ability to repel a magnetic field completely. They require incredible cold to slow down molecular vibrations sufficiently to facilitate unimpeded electron flow in accordance with what is known as BCS theory. Why is this ? Lead (Pb) Lanthanum (La) Tantalum (Ta) Mercury (Hg) Tin (Sn) Indium (In) Palladium (Pd)* Chromium (Cr)* Thallium (Tl) 7. three of the best metallic conductors. The 3rd column gives the lattice structure of the solid that produced the noted Tc.15 K 3.47 K 4.
61 K 0.85 K 0.517 K 0.66 K 0.60 K 0.128 K 0.5 Mbar to reach a Tc of 14-22 K. But.1125 K 0. except for Palladium. it requires compression pressures of 2. which has been irradiated with He+ ions.38 K 1. Many additional elements can be coaxed into a superconductive state with the application of high pressure. and Platinum as a compacted powder. Chromium as a thin film.40 K 1.915 K 0. Technetium and Vanadium which are technically Type 2).0019 K 0.697 K 1.0154 K 0.083 K 0.49 K 0.Rhenium (Re) Protactinium (Pa) Thorium (Th) Aluminum (Al) Gallium (Ga) Molybdenum (Mo) Zinc (Zn) Osmium (Os) Zirconium (Zr) Americium (Am) Cadmium (Cd) Ruthenium (Ru) Titanium (Ti) Uranium (U) Hafnium (Hf) Iridium (Ir) Beryllium (Be) Tungsten (W) Platinum (Pt)* Lithium (Li) Rhodium (Rh) 1.023 K (SRM 768) 0.20 K 0.175 K 1.000325 K HEX TET FCC FCC ORC BCC HEX HEX HEX HEX HEX HEX HEX ORC HEX FCC HEX BCC (see note 1) BCC FCC *Note 1: Tc's given are for bulk (alpha form). . See the periodic table below for all known elemental superconductors (including Niobium.0004 K 0.40 K 0. The above list is for elements at normal (ambient) atmospheric pressure. For example. phosphorus appears to be the Type 1 element with the highest Tc.
multi-walled nanotubes have shown superconductivity near 12K. However. diamond. single-walled nanotubes. And non-aligned. a Tc of 15K has been reported for elemental carbon when the atoms are configured as highly-aligned. white) will not superconduct at any temperature. graphite. Type 2 Superconductors A Type 2 Layered Cuprate . Since the penetration depth is much larger than the coherence length.**Note 2: Normally bulk carbon (amorphous. nanotubes would be characterized as "Type 2" superconductors.
Although. (Holes are positively-charged vacancies within the lattice. the highest Tc attained at ambient pressure for a material that will form stoichiometrically (by formula) has been 138 K. While there are far too many to list in totality. This new category of superconductors was identified by L.Bi)O3 was found to have a Tc of 13K. 347 . it is almost certain that other. Since a Type 2 will allow some penetration by an external magnetic field into its surface. The superconducting oxocuprates followed in 1986. was not recognized as such until later. more-synergistic compounds still await discovery among the high-temperature superconductors. Shubnikov at the Kharkov Institute of Science and Technology in the Ukraine in 1936(1) when he found two distinct critical magnetic fields (known as Hc1 and Hc2) in PbTl2. The recentlydiscovered superconducting "perovskites" (metal-oxide ceramics that normally have a ratio of 2 metal atoms to every 3 oxygen atoms) belong to this Type 2 group. other recent research suggests the holes of hypocharged oxygen in the charge reservoirs are responsible. One theory predicts an upper limit for the layered cuprates (Vladimir Kresin.also known as the "hard" superconductors .V. Voogd. Others assert there is no limit. this creates some rather novel mesoscopic phenomena like superconducting "stripes" and "flux-lattice vortices". Either way. (Tl5Pb2)Ba2Mg2Cu9O17+ (As a D223 structure) +28 C (Tl5Pb2)Ba2MgCu10O17+ (As a D223 structure) +18 C (Tl4Pb)Ba2MgCu8O13+ (As a 9223 structure) +3 C (Tl4Ba)Ba2MgCu8O13+ (As a 9223 structure) ~265 K (Tl4Ba)Ba2Mg2Cu7O13+ ~258 K . They achieve higher Tc's than Type 1 superconductors by a mechanism that is still not completely understood.Except for the elements vanadium. The first superconducting Type 2 compound. the Type 2 category of superconductors is comprised of metallic compounds and alloys. But. an alloy of lead and bismuth. after the Meissner effect had been discovered. some of the more interesting Type 2 superconductors are listed below by similarity and with descending Tc's.differ from Type 1 in that their transition from a normal to a superconducting state is gradual across a region of "mixed state" behavior. To date. de Haas and J. Reports 288.) The superconducting cuprates (copper-oxides) have achieved astonishingly high Tc's when you consider that by 1985 known Tc's had only reached 23 Kelvin. the lattice structure of the system is also noted. technetium and niobium.1997). The first of the oxide superconductors was created in 1973 by DuPont researcher Art Sleight when Ba(Pb. Where available. Conventional wisdom holds that it relates to the planar layering within the crystalline structure (see above graphic). was fabricated in 1930 by W. Phys. Type 2 superconductors . And the highest Tc overall is 28 C for a material which does not form stoichiometrically (see below list).
Tl2Ba2Ca2Cu3O10 127-128 K .5)Ba4Tm5Cu7O20+ ~185 K (As a 1245/1212 intergrowth.5)Ba4Tm6Cu8O22+ ~195 K (As a 1256/1212 intergrowth.5)Ba4Tm4Cu6O18+ ~163 K (As a 1234/1212 intergrowth) Sn3Ba4Ca2Cu7Oy (As a 5212/1212C intergrowth.33 HgBa2Ca2Cu3O8 HgBa2Ca3Cu4O10+ HgBa2(Ca1-xSrx)Cu2O6+ HgBa2CuO4+ Lattice: TET 138 K* 133-135 K 125-126 K 123-125 K 94-98 K * Note: As a result of a topological "defect". Thus.0Pb0.30% of the bulk.) ~160 K (Hg0.) ~242 K Tl5Ba4Ca2Cu10Oy (As a 9212/2212C intergrowth. Hg will also go into the Cu atomic sites.(As a 9223 structure) (Tl4Ba)Ba2Ca2Cu7O13+ (As a 9223 structure) ~254 K (Tl4Ba)Ba4Ca2Cu10Oy (As a 9212/2212C intergrowth.) ~233 K (Sn5In)Ba4Ca2Cu11Oy (As a B212/2212C intergrowth.5In0.) (Sn1.5In0.2)Ba2Ca2Cu3O8.8Tl0.) ~218 K (Sn5In)Ba4Ca2Cu10Oy (As a B212/1212C intergrowth.) ~212 K Sn6Ba4Ca2Cu10Oy (As a B212/1212C intergrowth.) (Sn1.0Pb0. the volume fraction of the intended structure type is typically just 15 .) ~200 K (Sn1.5In0.0Pb0.
ORG .ORG .2006) 107 K (Superconductors.(Tl1.ORG .5Y0.5Pb0.2007) 109 K (One-of-a-Kind Resonant .2007) ~98 K (Superconductors.6Pb0.2007) Lattice: TET Sn4Ba4(Tm2Ca)Cu7Ox Sn2Ba2(Tm0.2005) (Tl0.ORG .5)Cu3O8+ SnInBa4Tm3Cu5Ox Sn3Ba4Tm3Cu6Ox Sn3Ba8Ca4Cu11Ox SnBa4Y2Cu5Ox Sn4Ba4Tm2YCu7Ox Sn4Ba4TmCaCu4Ox Sn4Ba4Tm3Cu7Ox Sn2Ba2(Y0.2005) 109 K (Superconductors.4)Ba2Ca2Cu3O10+ 126 K TlBa2Ca2Cu3O9+ 123 K (TlSn)Ba4TmCaCu4O14+ ~121 K (Superconductors.2005) ~113 K (Superconductors.5)Cu3O8 Sn4Ba4Y3Cu7Ox ~127 K (TmTm-Ca structure only) ~115 K (Superconductors.ORG .ORG .5)Cu3O8+ Sn3Ba4Y2Cu5Ox SnInBa4Tm4Cu6Ox Sn2Ba2(Sr0.5)Sr2Ca2Cu3O9 118-120 K Tl2Ba2CaCu2O6 118 K TlBa2Ca3Cu4O11 112 K (SnTl0. et al .2006) 87 K (Superconductors.ORG .2011) TlBa2CaCu2O7+ 103 K Tl2Ba2CuO6 95 K TlSnBa4Y2Cu4Ox 86 K (Superconductors.6Sr2Ca2Sb0.5Tm0.1Cu3Oy Bi2Sr2Ca2Cu3O10*** Bi2Sr2CaCu2O9*** Bi2Sr2(Ca0.2007) ~104 K (First Hi-Tc Reentrant .ORG .2-.5)Ba4Tm3Cu5O16+ 105 K (Superconductors.2)Cu2O8 Bi2Sr2CaCu2O8 Lattice: ORTH 115 K (thick film on MgO substrate) 110 K 110 K 95-96K 91-92K *** Though not always listed as a component.2005) 86 K (Aleksandrov.8Y0.6Hg0.2006) ~96 K (Superconductors.5Pb0. CaSrCu2O4 110 K .2007) ~91 K (Superconductors.2005) Bi1.2007) ~100 K (Superconductors.ORG .ORG .ORG .26) is often used with Bismuth compounds to help facilitate a higher-Tc crystalline phase.ORG .ORG . a small amount of Lead (x=.1989) ~80 K (Superconductors.5Ca0.
2001) 82 K 30 K YBa3Cu4Ox (9223C structure) YCaBa3Cu5O11+ (Y0.2010) (Superconductors.ORG . Y)Cu3O8 106 K 101 K ~95 K 70 K (Superconductors.ORG .ORG .ORG .ORG .ORG .5Lu0.2005) (Superconductors. et al .5)Ba2Cu3O7 (Y0. Ca)Cu2O7 AuBa2Ca2Cu3O9 Lattice: ORTH 99 K (Kopnin. Pb3Sr4Ca3Cu6Ox Pb3Sr4Ca2Cu5O15+ (Pb1.2007) 90 K 90 K (Superconductors.5)Sr4Ca2Cu5O15+ Pb2Sr2(Ca.ORG .2006) .5Tm0.5)Ba2Cu3O7 177 K 107 K 106 K 104 K 104 K 99 K 97 K 96 K (Superconductors.YSrCa2Cu4O8+ (Ba.2006) (Cava.ORG .ORG .Sr)CuO2 101 K (Superconductors.2005) (Superconductors.ORG .2008) (Superconductors.Sr)CuO2 BaSr2CaCu4O8+ (La.1989) AuBa2Ca3Cu4O11 AuBa2(Y.ORG .5)Ba2Cu3O7 Y3Ba5Cu8Ox Y3CaBa4Cu8O18+ (Y0.2010) (Superconductors.5Gd0.2009) (Superconductors.ORG .5Sn1.2005) (Superconductors.2007) (Superconductors.2007) 42 K *** The above 5 compounds are all "infinite layer".ORG .2005) (Superconductors. et al .
7)Sr2(Ca0.Ce)2(Ba.85Sr0.2006) 85 K (Superconductors.ORG .Ca)3Cu2O6 La2CaCu2O6+ (Eu.ORG .2002) 70 K 70 K 60 K 58 K 45 K 43 K 40 K 40 K 35-38 K 35 K 32 K 30 K (First HTS ceramic SC discovered .2008) 96 K 95 K 94 K 92 K (See above graphic) 90 K 89 K 62 K Comment: "1-2-3" superconductors actually have the 1212C structure. The best performers are those compounds that contain one or more of the electron-emitters BaO. Rajkot.5)Cu2O7 Ga2Sr4Y2CaCu5Ox Ga2Sr4Tm2CaCu5Ox La2Ba2CaCu5O9+ (Sr.Ba)2CuO4 (Nd.5 K (Highest Tc iron-based compound) 38 K 18 K . SrO or CaO.ORG . along with a Period 6 heavy metal like Mercury.Y2CaBa4Cu7O16 Y3Ba4Cu7O16 Y2Ba5Cu7Ox NdBa2Cu3O7 Y2Ba4Cu7O15 GdBa2Cu3O7 YBa2Cu3O7 TmBa2Cu3O7 YbBa2Cu3O7 YSr2Cu3O7 Lattice: TET 96 K (Superconductors.15)CuO4 99 K (Superconductors.ORG . Y)Cu2O7 (In0. Thallium.La)2Cu2O6 (La1. GdFeAsO1-x (Ca.3Pb0. Bismuth. Thus.1986) **** First ceramic superconductor discovered without a non-superconducting oxide layer.8Y0.15)CuO4 SrNdCuO**** (La.85Ba.Sr.Ca)5Cu4O10 GaSr2(Ca.2006) 79 K (Saurashtra Univ. the formula for YBCO could be written CuBa2YCu2O7.ORG .2005) 96 K (Superconductors.Eu)2Cu3O10+ (La1.5Tm0. even though their metal-to-oxygen ratios are not exactly 2-to-3.Ba)Fe2As2 LiFeAs 53.2006) 81 K (Superconductors.Ce)2CuO4 Pb2(Sr. Lead. or Gold.Sr. Comment: All of the above are copper perovskites.. India .Sr. GaSr2(Ca0.2)Cu2Ox (La.
8 K 14. Nb0.4BiO3 39 K (Highest Tc Non-Fullerene Alloy) 30 K (First 4th order phase compound) Nb3Ge Nb3Si Nb3Sn Nb3Al V3Si Ta3Pb V3Ga Nb3Ga V3In Lattice: A15 23.2 K 19 K 18.8 K 7-8 K (First superconductive wire) (First all-metal perovskite superconductor) C Nb Tc 15 K (as highly-aligned. MgB2 Ba0.5 K 13.6K0. PuCoGa5 18.5 K (First SC transuranic compound) NbN 16.25 K 7.6Ti0.1 K 17 K 16.Comment: The above are members of the newly discovered iron pnictide family.80 K . single-walled nanotubes) 9.1 K Comment: After NbTi (below) NbN is the most widely used low-temperature superconductor.4 MgCNi3 9.9 K Comment: Among the binary alloys.1 K 18 K 17. these are some of the best performers. combining Group 5B metals in a ratio of 3-to-1 with 4A or 3A elements.
Tc=HEX. Critical Temperature for Superconductors The critical temperature for superconductors is the temperature at which the electrical resistivity of a metal drops to zero.08WO3 Tl. Several materials exhibit superconducting phase transitions at low temperatures.40 K Lattice: C=Fullerene.0-2. Nb=BCC.27-.98 K (") SrTiO3 0. The transition is so sudden and complete that it appears to be a transition to a different phase of matter.Sm)Cu2O8 ErNi2B2C YbPd2Sn UGe2 URhGe2 AuIn3 Tc ~58 K (Ruthenium-oxocuprate) Tc 10.14 K (") 1. RuSr2(Gd. Materials with critical temperatures in the range 120 K have received a Material Gallium Aluminum Indium Tin Tc 1.30WO3 Rb.4 K 3.7 K .29WO3 Lattice: TET 2-4 K (Tungsten-bronze) 2. this superconducting phase is described by the BCS theory.5 K (Heusler compound) Tc ~1K (Heavy fermion) Tc ~1K (") Tc 50 uK Comment: The above 6 compounds are all rare ferromagnetic superconductors.Eu.5 K (Nickel-Borocarbide) Tc ~2. V=BCC Comment: These four are the only elemental Type 2 superconductors.2 K 3. The highest critical temperature was about 23 K until the discovery in 1986 of some high temperature superconductors.35 K Comment: This is the first oxide insulator found to be superconductive. Sr.V 5.1K 1.
2 K 9.9 oxide K Y-Ba-Cu92 K oxide Tl-Ba-Cuoxide 125 K Elementary properties of superconductors Most of the physical properties of superconductors vary from material to material.great deal of attention because they can be maintained in the superconducting state with liquid nitrogen (77 K). critical field.17. Zero electrical DC resistance Electric cables for accelerators at CERN. On the other hand. and thus possesses certain distinguishing properties which are largely independent of microscopic details. For instance. such as the heat capacity and the critical temperature. Both the massive and slim cables are rated for 12. Top: conventional cables for LEP.2 7. all superconductors have exactly zero resistivity to low applied currents when there is no magnetic field present or if the applied field does not exceed a critical value. Mercury Lead Niobium 4. there is a class of properties that are independent of the underlying material. and critical current density at which superconductivity is destroyed. bottom: superconductor-based cables for the LHC .500 A. The existence of these "universal" properties implies that superconductivity is a thermodynamic phase.3 K La-Ba-Cu.
 In a normal conductor. Experimental evidence points to a current lifetime of at least 100. these vortices can become frozen into a disordered but stationary phase known as a "vortex glass". The electrons are constantly colliding with the ions in the lattice. However. This pairing is caused by an attractive force between electrons from the exchange of phonons. Experiments have demonstrated that currents in superconducting coils can persist for years without any measurable degradation. which is essentially the vibrational kinetic energy of the lattice ions. this means that the resistance is zero. Therefore. the fluid will not be scattered by the lattice. meaning it can flow without energy dissipation. but must be taken into account in sensitive experiments. the resistance of the material becomes truly zero. the electronic fluid cannot be resolved into individual electrons. an electric current may be visualized as a fluid of electrons moving across a heavy ionic lattice. if ΔE is larger than the thermal energy of the lattice. as the temperature decreases far enough below the nominal superconducting transition. In a conventional superconductor. This is the phenomenon of electrical resistance. meaning there is a minimum amount of energy ΔE that must be supplied in order to excite the fluid. As a result. The resistance due to this effect is tiny compared with that of non-superconducting materials. where k is Boltzmann's constant and T is the temperature. The resistance of the sample is given by Ohm's law as R = V/I. . and the resistivity vanishes. The Cooper pair fluid is thus a superfluid. The situation is different in a superconductor. Superconductors are also able to maintain a current with no applied voltage whatsoever. an extremely small amount of resistivity appears at temperatures not too far below the nominal superconducting transition when an electric current is applied in conjunction with a strong magnetic field.000 years. Instead. which may be caused by the electric current. Below this vortex glass transition temperature. including all known hightemperature superconductors. Due to quantum mechanics. depending on the wire geometry and the temperature. and during each collision some of the energy carried by the current is absorbed by the lattice and converted into heat. If the voltage is zero. a property exploited in superconducting electromagnets such as those found in MRI machines.The simplest method to measure the electrical resistance of a sample of some material is to place it in an electrical circuit in series with a current source I and measure the resulting voltage V across the sample. This is due to the motion of vortices in the electronic superfluid. the vortices are stationary. it consists of bound pairs of electrons known as Cooper pairs. the energy spectrum of this Cooper pair fluid possesses an energy gap. In a class of superconductors known as type II superconductors. given by kT. Theoretical estimates for the lifetime of a persistent current can exceed the estimated lifetime of the universe. which dissipates some of the energy carried by the current. If the current is sufficiently small. the energy carried by the current is constantly being dissipated.
green) at the superconducting phase transition In superconducting materials. although this material displays enough exotic properties that there is some doubt about classifying it as a "conventional" superconductor. The explanation for these high critical temperatures remains unknown. a higher temperature and a stronger magnetic field lead to a smaller fraction of the electrons in the superconducting band and consequently a longer London penetration depth of external magnetic fields and currents. The value of this critical temperature varies from material to material. has a critical temperature of 4. If the material superconducts in the absence of a field. Electron pairing due to phonon exchanges explains superconductivity in conventional superconductors.2 K. Similarly. This is because the Gibbs free energy of the superconducting phase increases quadratically with the magnetic field while the free energy of the normal phase is roughly independent of the magnetic field. blue) and resistivity (ρ. for example. Conventional superconductors usually have critical temperatures ranging from around 20 K to less than 1 K. one of the first cuprate superconductors to be discovered. As of 2009. the highest critical temperature found for a conventional superconductor is 39 K for magnesium diboride (MgB2). then the superconducting phase free energy is lower than that of the normal phase and so for some finite value of the magnetic field (proportional to the square root of the difference of the free energies at zero magnetic field) the two free energies will be equal and a phase transition to the normal phase will occur. at a fixed temperature below the critical temperature. has a critical temperature of 92 K. Cuprate superconductors can have much higher critical temperatures: YBa2Cu3O7. Solid mercury. superconducting materials cease to superconduct when an external magnetic field is applied which is greater than the critical magnetic field. the characteristics of superconductivity appear when the temperature T is lowered below a critical temperature Tc. The penetration depth becomes infinite at the phase transition.Superconducting phase transition Behavior of heat capacity (cv. and mercury-based cuprates have been found with critical temperatures in excess of 130 K. More generally. but it does not explain superconductivity in the newer superconductors that have a very high critical temperature. .
The Meissner effect is sometimes confused with the kind of diamagnetism one would expect in a perfect electrical conductor: according to Lenz's law. the magnetic field is ejected. In a perfect conductor. For most superconductors. and that the two regions are separated by a tricritical point. The Meissner effect is distinct from this—it is the spontaneous expulsion which occurs during transition to superconductivity. The Meissner effect does not cause the field to be completely ejected but instead the field penetrates the superconductor but only to a very small distance. that the transition is of second order within the type II regime and of first order (i. In the 1980s it was shown theoretically with the help of a disorder field theory. decaying exponentially to zero within the bulk of the material. The Meissner effect was given a phenomenological explanation by the brothers Fritz and Heinz London. and cooled below its transition temperature. latent heat) within the type I regime. α. which is the hallmark of a phase transition. because the superconducting phase has a lower entropy below the critical temperature than the normal phase. it varies instead as e−α /T for some constant. meaning there is no latent heat.The onset of superconductivity is accompanied by abrupt changes in various physical properties. when the magnetic field is increased beyond the critical field. The results were strongly supported by Monte Carlo computer simulations. the London penetration depth is on the order of 100 nm. the electronic heat capacity is proportional to the temperature in the normal (non-superconducting) regime. At the superconducting transition. When the material is cooled below the critical temperature. containing a constant internal magnetic field. Suppose we have a material in its normal state.e. For example. the resulting phase transition leads to a decrease in the temperature of the superconducting material. characterized by a parameter λ. It has been experimentally demonstrated that. Calculations in the 1970s suggested that it may actually be weakly first-order due to the effect of long-range fluctuations in the electromagnetic field. The order of the superconducting phase transition was long a matter of debate. it suffers a discontinuous jump and thereafter ceases to be linear. an arbitrarily large current can be induced. it will induce an electric current in the conductor that creates an opposing magnetic field. The Meissner effect is a defining characteristic of superconductivity. At low temperatures.. However in the presence of an external magnetic field there is latent heat. This exponential behavior is one of the pieces of evidence for the existence of the energy gap. as a consequence. when a changing magnetic field is applied to a conductor. called the London penetration depth. which we would not expect based on Lenz's law. who showed that the electromagnetic free energy in a superconductor is minimized provided . Experiments indicate that the transition is second-order. Meissner effect When a superconductor is placed in a weak external magnetic field H. we would observe the abrupt expulsion of the internal magnetic field. in which the vortex lines of the superconductor play a major role. and the resulting magnetic field exactly cancels the applied field.
the London moment. In Type II superconductors. theoretical condensed matter physicists arrived at a solid understanding of "conventional" superconductivity. A major triumph of the equations of this theory is their ability to explain the Meissner effect. Most pure elemental superconductors. one may obtain an intermediate state consisting of a baroque pattern of regions of normal material carrying a magnetic field mixed with regions of superconducting material containing no field. technetium. while almost all impure and compound superconductors are Type II. predicts that the magnetic field in a superconductor decays exponentially from whatever value it possesses at the surface. is important in quantum field theory and cosmology. was put to good use in Gravity Probe B. Generalizations of these theories form the basis for understanding the closely related phenomenon of superfluidity. Theories of superconductivity Since the discovery of superconductivity. precisely aligned with the spin axis. are Type I. raising the applied field past a critical value Hc1 leads to a mixed state (also known as the vortex state) in which an increasing amount of magnetic flux penetrates the material. but there remains no resistance to the flow of electric current as long as the current is not too large. A superconductor with little or no magnetic field within it is said to be in the Meissner state. great efforts have been devoted to finding out how and why it works. through a pair of remarkable and important theories: the phenomenological Ginzburg-Landau theory (1950) and the microscopic BCS theory (1957). This equation. which is known as the London equation. vanadium and carbon nanotubes. wherein a material exponentially . shortly after the discovery that magnetic fields are expelled from superconductors. a spinning superconductor generates a magnetic field. The four-dimensional extension of the Ginzburg-Landau theory. London moment Conversely. superconductivity is abruptly destroyed when the strength of the applied field rises above a critical value Hc. The Meissner state breaks down when the applied magnetic field is too large. Superfluidity of helium and superconductivity both are macroscopic quantum phenomena. but the extent to which similar generalizations can be applied to unconventional superconductors as well is still controversial. At a second critical field strength Hc2. This experiment measured the magnetic fields of four superconducting gyroscopes to determine their spin axes. superconductivity is destroyed. It was put forward by the brothers Fritz and Heinz London in 1935. London theory The first phenomenological theory of superconductivity was London theory. Superconductors can be divided into two classes according to how this breakdown occurs. Depending on the geometry of the sample. The effect. the Coleman-Weinberg model. sometimes called fluxons because the flux carried by these vortices is quantized. In Type I superconductors. The mixed state is actually caused by vortices in the electronic superfluid. During the 1950s. This was critical to the experiment since it is one of the few ways to accurately determine the spin axis of an otherwise featureless sphere. except niobium.where H is the magnetic field and λ is the London penetration depth. because they fall into the Lambda transition universality class.
Many other cuprate superconductors have since been discovered. High-temperature superconductivity Timeline of superconducting materials Main article: High-temperature superconductivity Until 1986. From about 1993. an iron-based family of high-temperature superconductors was discovered. By using the London equation. It was soon found that replacing the lanthanum with yttrium (i. In February 2008. which was important because liquid nitrogen could then be used as a refrigerant (the boiling point of nitrogen is 77 K at atmospheric pressure). Bednorz and Müller discovered superconductivity in a lanthanum-based cuprate perovskite material. mercury. the highest temperature superconductor was a ceramic material consisting of thallium. There are two London equations: The first equation follows from the Newton's second law for superconducting electrons. This is important commercially because liquid nitrogen can be produced cheaply on-site from air. barium. copper. calcium and oxygen (HgBa2Ca2Cu3O8+δ) with Tc = 138 K. making YBCO) raised the critical temperature to 92 K. and colleagues found .expels all internal magnetic fields as it crosses the superconducting threshold. which had a transition temperature of 35 K (Nobel Prize in Physics. In that year. Hideo Hosono.e. and the theory of superconductivity in these materials is one of the major outstanding challenges of theoretical condensed matter physics. 1987). of the Tokyo Institute of Technology. one can obtain the dependence of the magnetic field inside the superconductor on the distance to the surface. physicists had believed that BCS theory forbade superconductivity at temperatures above about 30 K. and is not prone to some of the problems (for instance solid air plugs) of helium in piping..
since electrical currents are carried by holes induced in the oxygen sites of the CuO2 sheets. This structure causes a large anisotropy in normal conducting and superconducting properties. particular realizations of superlattices at atomic limit made of superconducting atomic layers. .e. Crystal structure of high-temperature ceramic superconductors The structure of a high-Tc superconductor is closely related to perovskite structure. an oxypnictide that superconducts below 26 K. and the structure of these compounds has been described as a distorted. the proportions of the 3 different metals in the YBa2Cu3O7 superconductor are in the mole ratio of 1 to 2 to 3 for yttrium to barium to copper respectively. They can be classified as superstripes. Thus. The more layers of CuO2 the higher Tc.. this particular superconductor is often referred to as the 123 superconductor. with a much higher conductivity parallel to the CuO2 plane than in the perpendicular direction. YBaCuO superconductors YBCO unit cell The first superconductor found with Tc > 77 K (liquid nitrogen boiling point) is yttrium barium copper oxide (YBa2Cu3O7-x). The electrical conduction is highly anisotropic. dots separated by spacer layers. One of the properties of the crystal structure of oxide superconductors is an alternating multi-layer of CuO2 planes with superconductivity taking place between these layers. Critical temperatures depend on the chemical compositions. that gives multiband and multigap superconductivity. wires.lanthanum oxygen fluorine iron arsenide (LaO1-xFxFeAs). i. Replacing the lanthanum in LaO1−xFxFeAs with samarium leads to superconductors that work at 55 K. cations substitutions and oxygen content. oxygen deficient multilayered perovskite structure. Generally.
In the 2223 structure. Ca and Cu respectively. The Cu atom forms an octahedral coordination with respect to oxygen atoms in the 2201 phase. Tl. Sr. Bi-. The unit cell of these phases has double Bi–O planes which are stacked in a way that the Bi atom of one plane sits below the oxygen atom of the next consecutive plane. 2 and 3. 2 and 3). The role of the Y plane is to serve as a spacer between two CuO2 planes. two and three CuO2 planes. there is no Ca layer in the Bi-2201 phase. with respect to oxygen. The structure has a stacking of different layers: (CuO)(BaO)(CuO2)(Y)(CuO2)(BaO)(CuO). The coordination of the Cu atom is different in the three phases.The unit cell of YBa2Cu3O7 consists of three pseudocubic elementary perovskite unit cells. The c axis of these phases increases with the number of CuO2 planes (see table below). However. O(2).15 and the structure is orthorhombic. where the numbering system represent number of atoms for Bi.and Hg-based high-Tc superconductors are very similar. Y in the middle one. 85 and 110 K. The coordination polyhedra of Y and Ba with respect to oxygen are different. is referred to as an oxygen-deficient perovskite structure. therefore. In the structure of Tl2Ba2CuO6 (Tl-2201). which has two different coordinations. the perovskite-type feature and the presence of CuO2 layers also exist in these superconductors. whereas YBa2Cu3O7 has seven oxygen atoms and. having transition temperatures of 20. Bi-2212 and Bi2223. In Tl2Ba2CaCu2O8 (Tl2212). the Cu atom is surrounded by five oxygen atoms in a pyramidal arrangement.and Hg-based high-Tc superconductors The crystal structure of Bi-. and Ba in the top unit cell. where the structural transformation of YBCO occurs from orthorhombic to tetragonal. All corner sites of the unit cell are occupied by Cu. Like YBCO. The three phases differ with each other in the number of CuO2 planes. there is one CuO2 layer with the stacking sequence (Tl–O) (Tl–O) (Ba–O) (Cu–O) (Ba–O) (Tl–O) (Tl–O). The two phases have a tetragonal structure which consists of two sheared crystallographic unit cells. In Tl-based . Superconductivity disappears at x ≈ 0. whereas in 2212. In YBCO. unlike YBCO. there are three CuO2 layers enclosing Ca layers between each of these. O(3) and O(4). there are two Cu–O layers with a Ca layer in between. Similar to the Tl2Ba2CuO6 structure. Bi2201. Cu(1) and Cu(2). Tl. The Bi–Sr–Ca–Cu–O system has three superconducting phases forming a homologous series as Bi2Sr2Can−1CunO4+2n+x (n = 1. Tc is maximal near 92 K when x ≈ 0. whereas the other high-Tc superconductors have a tetragonal structure. Tl–O layers are present outside the Ba–O layers. respectively. In Tl2Ba2Ca2Cu3O10 (Tl-2223). Bi-2212 and Bi-2223 phases have one. Cu–O chains are not present in these superconductors. Y and Ba are stacked in the sequence [Ba–Y–Ba] along the c-axis. The Ca atom forms a layer within the interior of the CuO2 layers in both Bi-2212 and Bi-2223. One of the key feature of the unit cell of YBa2Cu3O7-x (YBCO) is the presence of two layers of CuO2. the Cu–O chains are known to play an important role for superconductivity. Tl–Ba–Ca–Cu–O superconductor: The first series of the Tl-based superconductor containing one Tl–O layer has the general formula TlBa2Can-1CunO2n+3. Cu has two coordinations with respect to oxygen: one Cu atom is bonded with four oxygen atoms in square planar configuration and another Cu atom is coordinated with five oxygen atoms in a pyramidal arrangement. There are four possible crystallographic sites for oxygen: O(1). respectively. whereas the second series containing two Tl–O layers has a formula of Tl2Ba2Can-1CunO2n+4 with n = 1. Thus. These three phases are Bi-2201. The tripling of the perovskite unit cell leads to nine oxygen atoms.6. The YBCO superconductor has an orthorhombic structure. Each perovskite unit cell contains a Y or Ba atom at the center: Ba in the bottom unit cell.
freeze-drying and sol-gel methods are alternative ways for preparing a homogenous mixture. of Cu-O planes in unit cell 2 1 2 3 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 Crystal structure Orthorhombic Tetragonal Tetragonal Tetragonal Tetragonal Tetragonal Tetragonal Tetragonal Tetragonal Tetragonal Tetragonal Preparation of high-Tc superconductors The simplest method for preparing high-Tc superconductors is a solid-state thermochemical reaction involving mixing. Hg-1212 and Hg-1223. These powders are calcined in the temperature . For Hg-1201.superconductors. Tl1212 and Tl-1223. In the Hg-based superconductor. 128 and 134 K respectively. calcination and sintering. the values of Tc are 94. Tc is also found to increase as the CuO2 layer increases. Solution chemistry processes such as coprecipitation. as shown in table below. and in the Tl2Ba2Can-1CunO2n+4 compound. the value of Tc decreases after four CuO2 layers in TlBa2Can-1CunO2n+3. Critical temperature (Tc). HgBa2CaCu2O6 (Hg-1212) and HgBa2Ca2Cu3O8 (Hg-1223) is similar to that of Tl-1201. it decreases after three CuO2 layers. The observation that the Tc of Hg-1223 increases to 153 K under high pressure indicates that the Tc of this compound is very sensitive to the structure of the compound. It is noteworthy that the Tc of the Hg compound (Hg-1201) containing one CuO2 layer is much larger as compared to the one-CuO2-layer compound of thallium (Tl-1201). are mixed thoroughly using a ball mill. However. Hg–Ba–Ca–Cu–O superconductor: The crystal structure of HgBa2CuO4 (Hg-1201). crystal structure and lattice constants of some high-Tc superconductors Formula YBa2Cu3O7 Bi2Sr2CuO6 Bi2Sr2CaCu2O8 Bi2Sr2Ca2Cu3O6 Tl2Ba2CuO6 Tl2Ba2CaCu2O8 Tl2Ba2Ca2Cu3O10 TlBa2Ca3Cu4O11 HgBa2CuO4 HgBa2CaCu2O6 HgBa2Ca2Cu3O8 Notation 123 Bi-2201 Bi-2212 Bi-2223 Tl-2201 Tl-2212 Tl-2223 Tl-1234 Hg-1201 Hg-1212 Hg-1223 Tc (K) 92 20 85 110 80 108 125 122 94 128 134 No. The appropriate amounts of precursor powders. Tc is found to increase with the increase in CuO2 layers. usually oxides and carbonates. with Hg in place of Tl.
The oxygen stoichiometry in this material is very crucial for obtaining a superconducting YBa2Cu3O7−x compound. They are used in MRI/NMR machines. For Bi–Sr–Ca–Cu–O. The sintering environment such as temperature. Tl. perhaps billions of degrees. The Bi-2212 phase appears only after few hours of sintering at 860–870 °C. the semiconducting tetragonal YBa2Cu3O6 compound is formed.range from 800 °C to 950 °C for several hours. The powders are subsequently compacted to pellets and sintered. as in the pigment industries. Superconductors are used to build Josephson junctions which are the building blocks of SQUIDs (superconducting quantum interference devices). with rho mesons being drawn from the virtual vacuum that permeates space to give rise to superconduction. The uptake and loss of oxygen are reversible in YBa2Cu3O7−x. At the time of sintering. They can also be used for magnetic separation. This process is repeated several times to get homogenous material. reground and calcined again. and the beam-steering magnets used in particle accelerators. Thus. the most sensitive magnetometers . Applications Superconducting magnets are some of the most powerful electromagnets known. Calcination is done at 900–950 °C. but the larger fraction of the Bi-2223 phase is formed after a long reaction time of more than a week at 870 °C. In the 1950s and 1960s. which. annealing time. The powders are cooled. mass spectrometers. A fully oxidized orthorhombic YBa2Cu3O7−x sample can be transformed into tetragonal YBa2Cu3O6 by heating in a vacuum at temperature above 700 °C. whereas it is very difficult to prepare a single phase of Bi-2223 (Tc ≈ 110 K). BaCO3 and CuO in the appropriate atomic ratio. More recently. on slow cooling in oxygen atmosphere. turns into superconducting YBa2Cu3O7−x. where weakly magnetic particles are extracted from a background of less or non-magnetic particles.and Hg-based high-Tc superconductors is difficult compared to YBCO. syntactic intergrowth and defects such as stacking faults occur during synthesis and it becomes difficult to isolate a single superconducting phase. a long sintering time is still required. Problems in these superconductors arise because of the existence of three or more phases having a similar layered structure. whereas sintering is done at 950 °C in an oxygen atmosphere. it is relatively simple to prepare the Bi-2212 (Tc ≈ 85 K) phase. The YBa2Cu3O7-x compound is prepared by calcination and sintering of a homogenous mixture of Y2O3. atmosphere and cooling rate play a very important role in getting good high-Tc superconducting materials. superconductors have been used to make digital circuits based on rapid single flux quantum technology and RF and microwave filters for mobile phone base stations. and at temperatures of at least a billion. Possible superconductivity of the vacuum Maxim Chernodub of the French National Centre for Scientific Research has postulated that the vacuum can be used as a source of superconduction in the presence of immensely strong magnetic fields of 1016 Tesla or more. The preparation of Bi-. superconductors were used to build experimental digital computers using cryotron switches. Although the substitution of Pb in the Bi–Sr–Ca–Cu–O compound has been found to promote the growth of the high-Tc phase.
size and weight advantages of devices based on high-temperature superconductivity outweigh the additional costs involved. as in vactrains or maglev trains). However. plans to put its first (non-superconducting) Maglev train into operation on a Virginia college campus. transformers) will be more difficult to develop than those that rely upon direct current. Not only would conventional electromagnets waste much of the electrical energy as heat.g. for vehicle propulsion.S. England. The Yamanashi MLX01 MagLev train. superconductivity is sensitive to moving magnetic fields so applications that use alternating current (e. Although the technology has now been proven. electric motors (e. magnetic levitation devices. transformers. The large resistance change at the transition from the normalto the superconducting state is used to build thermometers in cryogenic micro-calorimeter photon detectors. Depending on the particular mode of operation. they would have to be physically much larger than superconducting magnets. The same effect is used in ultrasensitive bolometers made from superconducting materials. The Minister of Transport authorized construction of the Yamanashi Maglev Test Line which opened on April 3. The world's first MAGLEV train to be adopted into commercial service. A landmark for the commercial use of MAGLEV technology occurred in 1990 when it gained the status of a nationally-funded project in Japan. The U. a superconductor-insulator-superconductor Josephson junction can be used as a photon detector or as a mixer. electric power transmission. Magnetic-levitation is an application where superconductors perform extremely well. Click this link for a website that lists other uses for MAGLEV. A Sino-German maglev is currently operating over a 30-km course at Pudong International Airport in Shanghai. nanoscopic materials such as buckyballs. the wider use of MAGLEV vehicles has been constrained by political and environmental concerns (strong magnetic fields can create a bio-hazard). Other early markets are arising where the relative efficiency. 1997.known. composite materials and superconducting magnetic refrigeration. power storage devices. SQUIDs are used in scanning SQUID microscopes and magnetoencephalography. a shuttle in Birmingham. China.g. Transport vehicles such as trains can be made to "float" on strong superconducting magnets. Series of Josephson devices are used to realize the SI volt. the MLX01 test vehicle (shown above) attained an incredible speed of 361 mph (581 kph). virtually eliminating friction between the train and its tracks. Promising future applications include high-performance smart grid. fault current limiters. nanotubes. shut down in 1997 after operating for 11 years. . In December 2003.
High-energy particle research hinges on being able to accelerate sub-atomic particles to nearly the speed of light.). the body can be probed to certain depths without the need for the strong magnetic fields associated with MRI's. it took almost five hours to produce one image! Today's faster computers process the data in much less time. Doctors need a non-invasive means of determining what's going on inside the human body. The Korean Superconductivity Group within KRISS has carried biomagnetic technology a step further with the development of a double-relaxation oscillation SQUID (Superconducting QUantum Interference Device) for use in Magnetoencephalography. By impinging a strong superconductor-derived magnetic field into the body. Texas. They then release this energy at a frequency that can be detected and displayed graphically by a computer. A tutorial is available on MRI at this link. SQUID's are capable of sensing a change in a magnetic field over a billion times weaker than the force that moves the needle on a compass (compass: 5e-5T. Probably the one event. Though Congress cancelled the multi-billion dollar effort in 1993. SQUID: e-14T. CERN. more than any other. Superconductor magnets make this possible. And Brookhaven National Laboratory features a page dedicated to its RHIC heavy-ion collider. is doing something similar with its Large Hadron Collider (LHC) recently inaugurated along the Franco-Swiss border. the first MRI exam on a human being was not performed until July 3. With this technology. . And. Get information on the electron-proton collider HERA at the German lab pages of DESY (with English text). a consortium of several European nations. Or read the latest MRI news at this link. 1977. the concept of such a large.MRI of a human skull. that has been responsible for putting "superconductors" into the American lexicon was the Superconducting Super-Collider project planned for construction in Ellis county. An area where superconductors can perform a life-saving function is in the field of biomagnetism. This was the first facility to use superconducting magnets. But. Other related web sites worth visiting include the proton-antiproton collider page at Fermilab. hydrogen atoms that exist in the body's water and fat molecules are forced to accept energy from the magnetic field. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) was actually discovered in the mid 1940's. high-energy collider would never have been viable without superconductors.
S.3 million in funding from the U. their efficiency is above 99% and their size about half that of conventional generators. began receiving their electricity through HTS (high-temperature superconducting) material. Other commercial power projects in the works that employ superconductor technology include energy storage to enhance power stability. However. The General Atomics/Intermagnetics General superconducting Fault Current Controller. California. due to the high cost and impracticality of cooling miles of superconducting wire to cryogenic temperatures. but proved adequate for testing purposes. ABB also recently announced the development of a 6. power utilities have also begun to use superconductor-based transformers and "fault limiters". General Electric has estimated the potential worldwide market for superconducting generators in the next decade at around $20-30 billion dollars.Electric generators made with superconducting wire are far more efficient than conventional generators wound with copper wire.the most powerful in the world.000 pounds of vintage copper wire. Advanced Ceramics Limited is another of several companies that makes BSCCO type fault limiters. And. In May of 2001 some 150. In one instance 250 pounds of superconducting wire replaced 18. In fact. These facts make them very lucrative ventures for power utilities. To read the latest news on superconducting generators click Here. Department of Energy to move high-temperature superconducting generator technology toward full commercialization. this has only happened with short "test runs". That cable was only 30 meters long. An idealized application for superconductors is to employ them in the transmission of commercial power to cities. received an order from Alliant Energy in late March 2000 to install a Distributed Superconducting Magnetic Energy Storage System (D-SMES) in Wisconsin. Recently. American Superconductor Corp. Denmark.4MVA (mega-volt-ampere) fault current limiter . making it over 7000% more space-efficient.) By doing this. Intermagnetics General recently completed tests on its largest (15kv class) power-utility-size fault limiter at a Southern California Edison (SCE) substation near Norwalk. (See photo below. In the summer of 2001 Pirelli completed installation of three 400-foot HTS cables for Detroit Edison at the Frisbie Substation . Late in 2002 GE Power Systems received $12. more current can be routed through existing cable tunnels. both the US and Japan have plans to replace underground copper power cables with superconducting BSCCO cable-in-conduit cooled with liquid nitrogen.000 residents of Copenhagen. Just one of these 6 D-SMES units has a power reserve of over 3 million watts. AMSC has also installed more than 22 of its D-VAR systems to provide instantaneous reactive power support. employing HTS superconductors. which can be retrieved whenever there is a need to stabilize line voltage during a disturbance in the power grid. This new generation of HTS superconducting fault limiters is being called upon due to their ability to respond in just thousandths of a second to limit tens of thousands of amperes of current. The Swiss-Swedish company ABB was the first to connect a superconducting transformer to a utility power network in March of 1997.
Department of Energy and New York Energy Research & Development Authority.quadrillions of operations per second. in Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation's power grid. The fastest single processor is a Lenslet optical DSP running at 8 teraflops.S. In the electronics industry. NAVY to detect mines and submarines.5MW HTS ship propulsion motor was delivered to the U. An even larger 36. the DI-BSCCO cable has been supplying the power to approximately 70. Sumitomo Electric's DI-BSCCO cable was employed in the first in-grid power cable demonstration project sponsored by the U. TRW researchers (now Northrop Grumman) have quantified this further by predicting that 100 billion Josephson junctions on 4000 microprocessors will be necessary to reach 32 petabits per second. A petaflop is a thousand-trillion floating point operations per second. Intermagnetics General has announced that its IGC-SuperPower subsidiary has joined with BOC and Sumitomo Electric in a $26 million project to install an underground. Navy in late 2006 . high-density molecule-scale processors . will be necessary to achieve the next level of processing speeds. This translates into an ability to pass desired frequencies and block undesirable frequencies in high-congestion rf (radio frequency) applications such as cellular telephone systems. Superconductors have also found widespread applications in the military. And. It is. such as quantum (DELTT) transistors.capable of delivering 100 million watts of power. significantly smaller motors are being built for NAVY ships using superconducting wire and "tape". Since superconducting wire has near zero resistance. In mid-July.32 petaflops per second.S. however. It has been conjectured that devices on the order of 50 nanometers in size along with unconventional switching mechanisms. HTS power cable in Albany. ultra-high-performance filters are now being built. 2001. Incorporating 6000 Josephson Junctions. The National Science Foundation. even at high frequencies. Department of Energy "Sequoia" Supercomputer. These Josephson junctions are incorporated into field-effect transistors which then become part of the logic circuits within the processors. New York. Recently it was demonstrated at the Weizmann Institute in Israel that the tiny magnetic fields that penetrate Type 2 superconductors can be used for storing and retrieving digital information. such as the Josephson junctions associated with superconductors. American Superconductor unveiled a 5000-horsepower motor made with superconducting wire (below). Hypres Superconducting Microchip.000 households without any problems. This marked the first time commercial power has been delivered to customers of a US power utility through superconducting wire. not a foregone conclusion that computers of the future will be built around superconducting devices. HTSC SQUIDS are being used by the U. ISCO International and Superconductor Technologies are companies currently offering such filters.S. and DNA-based processing also have the potential to achieve petaflop benchmarks. The long-term test will be completed in the 2007-2008 timeframe. along with NASA and DARPA and various universities. operating at 16. Competing technologies. Currently the fastest is the U. Today's fastest computers have only recently reached "petaflop" speeds .S. are currently researching "petaflop" computers. many more filter stages can be employed to achive a desired frequency response. After connecting to the grid successfully on July 2006.
high-intensity electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) to disable an enemy's electronic equipment. American Superconductor has announced the development of a superconducting degaussing cable. Applications engineers suggest that superconducting carbon nanotubes might be an ideal nano-antenna for high-gigahertz and terahertz frequencies. superconductor technology may be called upon to . 2000.The newest application for HTS wire is in the degaussing of naval vessels. Unfortunately. The military is also looking at using superconductive tape as a means of reducing the length of very low frequency antennas employed on submarines. Such a device saw its first use in wartime in March 2003 when US Forces attacked an Iraqi broadcast facility. HTS degaussing cable offers reduced size and weight. However. once a method of achieving zero "on tube" contact resistance is perfected. Normally. superconductor-derived magnetic fields to create a fast. A photo of Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3. inserting a coil of wire ahead of the antenna will make it function as if it were much longer. The most ignominious military use of superconductors may come with the deployment of "E-bombs". the lower the frequency. Degaussing of a ship's hull eliminates residual magnetic fields which might otherwise give away a ship's presence. The Electronic Materials and Devices Research Group at University of Birmingham (UK) is credited with creating the first superconducting microwave antenna. superconducting light detectors are being developed due to their inherent ability to detect extremely weak amounts of energy. an optical camera of phenomenal sensitivity (see above photo). In late February. this loading coil also increases system losses by adding the resistance in the coil's wire. taken with the European Space Agency S-CAM. the longer an antenna must be. in the act of disintegrating . And. Since Internet traffic is increasing exponentially. superconductors may even play a role in Internet communications soon. Irvine Sensors Corporation received a $1 million contract to research and develop a superconducting digital router for high-speed data communications up to 160 Ghz. Already Scientists at the European Space Agency (ESA) have developed what's being called the S-Cam. Using superconductive materials can significantly reduce losses in this coil. Among emerging technologies are a stabilizing momentum wheel (gyroscope) for earthorbiting satellites that employs the "flux-pinning" properties of imperfect superconductors to reduce friction to near zero. Superconducting x-ray detectors and ultra-fast. These are devices that make use of strong. In addition to reduced power requirements.
high-efficiency magnetocaloric-effect compounds such as gadolinium-silicon-germanium are expected to enter the marketplace soon. Physicists in Finland have calculated that the EU could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 53 million tons if high-temperature superconductors were used in power plants. Stay tuned ! . All of this is. refrigeration units to facilitate additional HTS applications. with high-temperature superconductors enabling newer applications. of course.meet this super need. Low-temperature superconductors are expected to continue to play a dominant role in well-established fields such as MRI and scientific research. The future melding of superconductors into our daily lives will also depend to a great degree on advancements in the field of cryogenic cooling. New. the worldwide market for superconductor products is projected to grow to near US $38 billion by 2020. contingent upon a linear growth rate. The reduction of green-house gas (GHG) emissions has becoming a topical issue due to the Kyoto Protocol which requires the European Union (EU) to reduce its emissions by 8% from 1990 levels by 2012. growth and development in this exciting field could explode virtually overnight. Irvine Sensors speculates this router may see use in facilitating Internet2. According to June 2002 estimates by the Conectus consortium. Such materials should make possible compact. Should new superconductors with higher transition temperatures be discovered. The above ISIS graph gives a rough breakdown of the various markets in which superconductors are expected to make a contribution. Another impetus to the wider use of superconductors is political in nature.
Josephson (1973). "for pioneering contributions to the theory of superconductors and superfluids . Vitaly L. Müller (1987). Nobel Prizes for superconductivity Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (1913). respectively. "for his investigations on the properties of matter at low temperatures which led. Cooper. "for their jointly developed theory of superconductivity. to the production of liquid helium" John Bardeen. and Anthony J. "for their important break-through in the discovery of superconductivity in ceramic materials" Alexei A. "for their experimental discoveries regarding tunneling phenomena in semiconductors and superconductors. acting to exclude the magnetic field of the magnet (Faraday's law of induction). Leggett (2003). inter alia. Ginzburg.A high-temperature superconductor levitating above a magnet A magnet levitating above a high-temperature superconductor. and J." and "for his theoretical predictions of the properties of a supercurrent through a tunnel barrier. and Brian D. in particular those phenomena which are generally known as the Josephson effects" Georg Bednorz and Alex K. Leon N. Abrikosov. Persistent electric current flows on the surface of the superconductor. usually called the BCS-theory" Leo Esaki. Ivar Giaever. cooled with liquid nitrogen. Robert Schrieffer (1972). This current effectively forms an electromagnet that repels the magnet.
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