The Importance of Superconductive Materials

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Levitating Superconductor by Julian Litzel

Imagine you have the possibility to avoid the electric power blackout, like the one that North Americans experienced in 2003, which lasted for 4 days and caused over $6 billion in damages. What could be your savior?

Saving energy in the long-distance energy transport. Long-distance transmission of electricity without losing energy in the process could soon become reality.

A NIMS-Ehime University research team has discovered new materials that reveal superconductivity under high pressure. The materials can be applied to develop superconductive materials for the use in diverse industries.

The Traditional Approach to Research

The traditional approach to the search for new conductive materials used to rely on already accessible information, like valence numbers or crystalline structures of the materials.

Since this kind of approach took too much time and resources, new methods have been introduced to create superconductive materials.

Knowing What’s a Superconductive Material

The team from the Japanese universities took the AtomWork database and chose around 1,500 material groups whose electronic states they could calculate. The list was shortened to 27 materials with superconducting characteristics.

Lastly, only two materials were taken to be easily synthesized. Researchers have then confirmed superconductivity levels under high pressure. The analysis was made with an electrical resistivity measuring instrument.

They also concluded that with higher pressure, the conductivity increases.

The Advantages of Superconductors

The first and the most important advantage of superconductive materials is in the aforementioned use in the long-distance electricity transmission. The present power grids can, therefore, be replaced with a superconductive grid, making the loss of energy less frequent. They are also to be buried in the ground, which takes less place above the ground.

Next benefit from superconductors is the improvement of wide-band telecommunication. Gigahertz frequencies, which we use in the cell phone domain, are hard to achieve with the current circuitry (semiconductor-based). But with superconductor receivers, gigahertz frequencies are easy to achieve.

Lastly, the field of medical diagnosis can profit from superconductive materials. For example, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) uses magnets that have superconductive properties. The magnets create wide magnetic fields inside a person’s body.

Since the MRI imaging is healthier than the x-ray imaging (there’s no radiation involved), MRI machines have already started to dominate the medical diagnosis area. The significance of superconductive materials is thus enormous.

The Japanese research team said that they will be developing more materials to get the desired properties. As far as the current research shows, the newly discovered superconductors may also have great thermoelectric properties, so who knows where we’ll be seeing them in the future.

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