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Science Technology

Man-Made Material Pushes the Bounds of Superconductivity 133

Posted by samzenpus
from the greased-lightning dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A multi-university team of researchers has artificially engineered a unique multilayer material that could lead to breakthroughs in both superconductivity research and in real-world applications. The researchers can tailor the material, which seamlessly alternates between metal and oxide layers, to achieve extraordinary superconducting properties — in particular, the ability to transport much more electrical current than non-engineered materials."
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Man-Made Material Pushes the Bounds of Superconductivity

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  • Re:Resistance (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Monday March 04, 2013 @12:15AM (#43064951) Homepage Journal
    Wouldn't that be Vogoninium?
  • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Monday March 04, 2013 @12:36AM (#43065025)
    They stacked atoms in a very impressive way, but they don't actually say what their fancy new material can do. What's the critical temperature, guys? Why was that not the first question? How much current can it carry compared to other Type II superconductors? If it's an improvement by 3C, it's not a breakthrough. If it's 30C, you'll definitely have my attention.
  • by Drishmung (458368) on Monday March 04, 2013 @12:46AM (#43065073)

    The question -- as it always is -- is: What is the operating temperature range for this material?

    They don't say. The most we know from the article is

    its effective operating temperature is higher than that of conventional superconducting materials such as niobium, lead or mercury.

    which means higher than 9.3K (Nb critical temperature).

    The article also says:

    Currently, even unconventional high-temperature superconductors operate below -369 degrees Fahrenheit.

    or about 50K. Still below the magic 77K of liquid Nitrogen at which point things become economically interesting---and I can't see any statement in the article that the substance is even as good as, never mind better than 50K, although there is an implication that it is.

    All in all, the article says remarkably little, at some length.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 04, 2013 @01:11AM (#43065165)

    Not true, even a liquid nitrogen, or dry ice, superconductor that can carry large current will have an enormous effect on technology. It is simplistic to think that power transmission is the major application. It is not even an important one in the grand scheme of things. Even at that level it would be possible to have an MRI in every doctors office. If we get to -20, it means devices that can work with normal compressor based refrigeration, which means the technology can be anywhere even in the home.

  • by wesley96 (934306) on Monday March 04, 2013 @06:07AM (#43065999) Homepage
    Well-maintained power grid can have transmission loss of around 4% as in the case of South Korea and Japan.

    I think this is a practical limit as far as conventional conductors go. Unless the superconductors are ridiculously cost-effective to install and maintain, the benefits will never materialize - i.e. become a game changer.

    To put this into perspective, let's try this. A relatively small country like South Korea still has more than ten thousand miles of transmission lines. Say you replace all that and achieve 4% more power.

    Since the installed power capacity is around 70GW, that means about 3GW, or about three regular nuclear plants. I highly doubt completely redoing the existing transmission infrastructure with conventional means is possible with the cost of building three nuclear plants, let alone a superconducting one. And I haven't even got to the current limits yet.

    This is why, if there's a superconductor breakthrough, I think it'll have more impact on medical uses rather than raw power transmission.

    Disclaimer: I work in the electric power industry.
  • by EdZ (755139) on Monday March 04, 2013 @07:56AM (#43066327)

    Ultraconductors got killed in the 2008 market crash. Had they not got killed, they were making superconductors out of plastic, they called it Ultraconductor [chavaenergy.com]. (Not to be confused with the speaker cables of the same name). This stuff conducted at room temperature a million times better than silver! I have no doubt they could have done it, had the economy not killed them.

    A viable room-temperature superconductor (even if only unidirectional) would be so useful that I can't believe that the '2008 market crash' was the only factor keeping them from market. Heck, that's Nobel-prize-worthy research if they can prove how it works.

    With patents to back it up rather than peer-reviewed papers, this squarely into 'extraordinary claims without extraordinary results' land.

A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems. -- P. Erdos