ADVERTISEMENT
See Inside April 2005

Low-Temperature Superconductivity Is Warming Up

Magnesium diboride defies the once conventional wisdom about what makes a good superconductor. It becomes superconducting near the relatively warm temperature of 40 kelvins--which promises a variety of applications

Imagine walking around in your backyard and suddenly discovering a vein of gold in a corner you thought you knew well. Or imagine how Jed Clampett of the Beverly Hillbillies felt when oil started bubbling up through the ground. A similar sensation of incredulous excitement swept over the solid-state physics community in the early weeks of 2001, when researchers announced that magnesium diboride (MgB2) superconducts--conducts electricity without resistance--at temperatures approaching 40 kelvins.

This simple compound had been studied in the 1950s and had been on the shelves in some laboratories for various mundane purposes for decades, with no one suspecting its enormously valuable hidden talent. Although 40 K (or ¿233 degrees Celsius) may sound rather low, it was nearly double the record for compounds made of metals (about 23 K for niobium-based alloys, which are widely used in research and industry). A transition temperature that high can be achieved by technologies that cost much less than those needed to bring about superconductivity in the niobium alloys. Possible applications include superconducting magnets and power lines.

This is only a preview. Get the rest of this article now!

Select an option below:

Customer Sign In

*You must have purchased this issue or have a qualifying subscription to access this content


It has been identified that the institution you are trying to access this article from has institutional site license access to Scientific American on nature.com.
Click here to access this article in its entirety through site license access.

Rights & Permissions
Share this Article:

Comments

You must sign in or register as a ScientificAmerican.com member to submit a comment.
Scientific American Special Universe

Get the latest Special Collector's edition

Secrets of the Universe: Past, Present, Future

Order Now >

X

Email this Article

X