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Science

New Type of Superconductivity Spotted 71

Posted by Soulskill
from the hard-to-resist dept.
sciencehabit writes with this excerpt from a story about research into an unusual form of superconductivity:"Superconductors, materials that carry electricity without resistance, can be divided into two broad groups depending on how they react to a magnetic field — or so physicists thought. New experiments show that one well-studied superconductor actually belongs to both groups at the same time. The advance may not immediately lead to new gadgets and applications, but it suggests that superconductivity, which has already netted four Nobel Prizes, may be an even richer phenomenon than previously thought."
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New Type of Superconductivity Spotted

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  • But is it going to work at Room Temperature?
    • by von_rick (944421) on Friday March 13, 2009 @10:15PM (#27189525) Homepage
      Whenever there is a talk about superconductors, the first question that gets asked is at what temperature would we get resistance free material. Its application in gadgets, or even the funding for in depth study of Type 1.5 superconductors would hinge around that question.
      • by Eighty7 (1130057) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @02:11AM (#27190537)
        Temperature is the wrong problem to focus on. Liquid nitrogen is relatively inexpensive & easily handled. With a good insulation system, it costs very little to keep it liquid. The real problem is that despite lots of industry & government involvement, high temp superconductors are still expensive to manufacture & not easily turned into wires.
        • Temperature is the wrong problem to focus on. Liquid nitrogen is relatively inexpensive & easily handled.

          That's relative to liquid hydrogen I guess. For other applications you'd want to use superconductors though, no, it's really not. For instance, I'm not any kind of engineer, but it seems like superconducting long distance high-voltage power lines would be one thing that would be nice, and cooling miles of wire with liquid nitrogen seems like a big hassle.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Jafafa Hots (580169)

            Not only that, but superconducting Monster Cable interconnects would ensure that your music gets from your CD player to your receiver without any of the bits getting tarnished.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by kf6auf (719514)

          If your application requires charging up and down electromagnets regularly, that boils helium regardless of how good your insulation is. You'd much rather be boiling nitrogen.

          While they're currently expensive there are a lot of applications that just use a small amount of material (and low current and low field, which can be a downside at high Tc). For example, SQUIDs [wikipedia.org] that can be cooled with LN2 instead of helium cost way less to operate and are just as good.

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    • by Bananatree3 (872975) on Friday March 13, 2009 @11:02PM (#27189723)

      A room-temperature superconductor would be nice, but even with today's superconductors a hell of a lot can be done...in space!

      With all this talk of inter-planetary space travel, space provides the right temperature without expensive cooling systems. Simply insulate the superconductors from direct sunlight and you get great applications like passive superconductor magnetic bearings and other cool oddities that you would only get with expensive cooling systems here on earth.

      • Space isn't really cold... And any heat built up would need to be radiated away, not removed through conduction or convection. I'm not very well versed in this all, but I expect these limitations would actually make it hard to do all that much with...

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by SECProto (790283)
          actually, it could be very easily conducted away using some material, and then radiated (from heat sink-like things).


          and to think, i could get modded insightful sometimes if i bothered to use proper sentence structure...
          • by blueg3 (192743)

            While true, this is not "easy" -- radiative cooling is very restrictive, and you get no conductive or convective cooling in space.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 13, 2009 @11:31PM (#27189887)
          Heat buildup from what, electrical resistance?
          • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Heat buildup from what, electrical resistance?

            Oh snap!

          • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 14, 2009 @12:13AM (#27190087)

            Heat buildup from what, electrical resistance?

            It's sometimes hard to see it from Earth, but it turns out there is a really large glowing ball out there sending heat in a directions.

            • by Ashriel (1457949)

              Actually, that large glowing ball is sending light in all directions. When said light strikes mass, the mass is energized and heat is produced. Heat doesn't travel through a vacuum.

              Once in place and insulated from sunlight and physical contact from the insulator (along with anything else that might generate heat), maintaining a material at superconductivity should be no problem. The hard part is getting it to superconductivity in the first place. I think you'd have to send it out into space already at super

              • by DMUTPeregrine (612791) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @01:51AM (#27190467) Journal
                The shade will heat up, then emit IR radiation, which is the light that causes that heat in the first place. All bodies radiate, how much depends on their temperature.
                • All bodies radiate, how much depends on their temperature.

                  Er...and the medium they are in. I would lose body heat faster in the sea than in space, because of the volume of colder material and it's shape-conforming nature.

              • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                by Anonymous Coward

                Heat doesn't travel through a vacuum.

                Er... what? Heat can pass through a vacuum perfectly well as electromagnetic radiation. I was warmed from the sun today.

                • by rastos1 (601318)

                  I was warmed from the sun today.

                  What are you doing here on /. , traitor?

              • Heat doesn't travel through a vacuum.

                Oh, so THAT's the reason the electromagnetic spectrum between microwaves and visible light is always blacked out and ignored. Infrared is the polywater of the EM spectrum...

        • It would still have to be insulated from sunlight: almost any material would absorb more radiation from the sun than it would emit through radiation at ~3K, and thermal equilibrium would almost certainly happen at a much higher temperature than would allow for superconductivity.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jericho4.0 (565125)
        A hell of a lot can be done with todays superconductors without the added expense of launching them into space. The point of room temperature superconductors is to get them cheap and ubiquitous.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by moosesocks (264553)

        Even at that, you can ignore space or room-temperature superconductors.

        Right now, there are a considerable number of devices that require superconductors at liquid nitrogen or liquid helium (~2 K) temperatures. You won't find them in your home, but you will find them everywhere at the cutting-edge of scientific research (medical imaging, particle accelerators, etc.)

        The prospect of being able to make these devices cheaper, smaller, or more powerful is extremely enticing to the operators of these devices. C

        • If the LHC could run at room temperature, it'd cost a mere fraction of what it does.

          And it would've been done 3 years ago, since you don't have to warm-up and cool-down to fix every damn little problem, or train (heat/cool cycle) the magnets to get to the desired field strength.

  • Wasn't that what the engineers in the movie Primer [primermovie.com] (trailer [youtube.com]) were working on?

    Sorry, I just watched that for the first time earlier this week and am still enamored with it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Endymion (12816)

      It may have involved superconductors, but I think they were trying to do something with gravity at first. Hence measuring the change in weight of the object in the box, before they found the box's other properties.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Temujin_12 (832986)

        It may have involved superconductors, but I think they were trying to do something with gravity at first. Hence measuring the change in weight of the object in the box, before they found the box's other properties.

        I hope people aren't modding your post interesting thinking you were talking about TFA rather than the movie I mentioned.

    • God, I love this movie to death! I'm glad to see someone else watched it and enjoys it as much as I do. Also, it was filmed in my home town (Addison, suburb of Dallas, TX). It's fun pointing out where the various scenes are relative to my apartment.
    • Yes, it involved superconductors. I think Endymion is right. I think they were attempting to produce levitation or something.

      Back off topic, I saw Primer in early 2008 and was very impressed. I just saw it tonight for the third time. $7,000 budget and better than the majority of multimillion-dollar movies.
    • by BenBoy (615230)

      If you like primer, you'd like the movie pi, prolly. I liked both for about the same reasons.

      Ben

  • superconductorsgobothways
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Zancarius (414244)

      Actually, one of the tags currently on the story as of this writing, "dualactionscience" is both brilliant and humorous at the same time--and unlikely to offend anyone. I think it's appropriate. In fact, I'm still laughing about it nearly ten minutes later! Bravo to the individual who thought that one up.

  • So then... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    they're biconductors?

  • by Terranex (1500465)
    It was only a matter of time until the Lesser Spotted Superconductivity was twitched upon.
  • superconductors is for CPU/GPU chips. If we can finally get a material that's easy to work with, we'd finally be able to get damn CPU speeds in excess of 10GHz, which is what the P4 (netburst) architecture was designed to do.

    The question then becomes, what do we do with such high speed chips? and the answers include Voice Recognition, Speech Synthesys, better pron (ray traced) and maybe Duke Nukem forever. Of course I can safely state that Windows 9 would certainly need such a CPU along with Symantec (NAV)

    • Possibly a better reason for computers would be quantum computing. Probably the easiest way to store a qubit and manipulate it is in a superconducting material. It is hard to store a qubit and let it interact with other qubits without the quantum effects being "washed out" by thermal effects and other interactions. Superconductors side-step this problem, well except it seems superconductivity suffers a similar problem. Hence no room temperature superconductivity. In fact you could argue it provides good evi
  • Ok. its a bit brave to nominate myself as an expert, but I work in this field and spent many years studying this compound (this material was the subject of my PhD thesis). I am a slashdot noob though... Firstly, I am a bit surprised that this kind of article got slashdotted. The new PRL 'Viewpoint' section which covered this may have helped. Secondly the evidence for the new state doesn't seem that convincing to me yet. A non-uniform, imperfect flux line lattice (as they observe) is the norm in most materia

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