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Science

Metamaterial Superconductor Hints At New Era of High Temperature Superconductors 39

Posted by Soulskill
from the resistance-is-futile-at-extremely-low-temperatures dept.
KentuckyFC writes: Superconductors allow current to flow with zero resistance when cooled below some critical temperature. They are the crucial ingredients in everything from high-power magnets and MRI machines to highly sensitive magnetometers and magnetic levitation devices. But one big problem is that superconductors work only at very low temperatures — the highest is around 150 kelvin (-120 degrees centigrade). So scientists would dearly love to find ways of raising this critical temperature. Now a group of physicists say they've found a promising approach: to build metamaterial superconductors that steer electrons in the same way as other metamaterials steer light to create invisibility cloaks. The inspiration for the work comes from the observation that some high temperature superconductors consist of repeated layers of conducting and dielectric structures. So the team mixed tin — a superconductor at 3.7 kelvin — with the dielectric barium titanate and found that it raised the critical temperature by 0.15 kelvin. That's the first demonstration that superconductors can be thought of as metamaterials. With this proof of principle under their belts, the next step is to look for bigger gains at higher temperatures.
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Metamaterial Superconductor Hints At New Era of High Temperature Superconductors

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  • by JcMorin (930466) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @02:16PM (#47722517)
    I feel it's soo far away to be somehow useful I'm not that excited.
    • Think of the flying cars!
    • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @02:34PM (#47722733) Homepage
      This is extremely preliminary. It is likely that later work will be able to increase it further. And even an increase in a few degrees centigrade would have practical impacts. Moreover, the ability to make metamaterials of this sort may lead to superconductors with different ranges wherein they engage in magnetic quenching https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superconducting_magnet#Magnet_quench [wikipedia.org] which is important for safe and practical use of superconductors even today. It isn't uncommon for a bad quenching event to damage a particle accelerator. A particular bad example happened to the LHC back in 2008 dealing serious damage to the accelerator http://astroengine.com/2008/10/18/lhc-quench-ripped-magnets-from-concrete-floor/ [astroengine.com]. Yes, this isn't immediately practical but it looks like there's a lot of potential.
    • by meerling (1487879)
      They've been stuck for how to increase the temperature range for some time now. Despite this being a tiny increase, it's a huge thing as it shows an entirely new way to increase temperature ranges that actually works.
    • No doubt that is what ppl like you said when the wright brothers flew about 100' just over 110 years ago.
      And it is the same thing that was said by others like you when America made the lithium Batteries.
      Or when Goddard flew the first liquid rocket.

      It is obvious that important issues escape you.
  • You're welcome.
    • by GNious (953874) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @02:59PM (#47722959)

      C'mon, it is the year 2014 already - no-one uses Fahrenheit any longer.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Also, we haven't used the term centigrade in 50 years.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        No agrument that you should use metric units for technical work, but for day-to-day temperatures I still prefer Fahrenheit (which scales 0-100 to cover the temperature range normally experienced outdoors).

        Knowing that today's high will be in the 50s/60s/70s/80s/90s/100s conveys info in a user-friendly way (to me at least).

        I noticed that the thermostat in my last European hotel room allowed temperature adjustments in 0.1 increments, which suggests the Celsius scale is a bit too coarse for daily use.

      • by lgw (121541)

        Fahrenheit is the only temperature system anyone should use! It's the temperature component of the One True System of measure: the Fortnight-Firkin-Furlong system.

  • I thought, "Wow! Now that's got to be really fast acting!"
  • by mark-t (151149) <markt@@@lynx...bc...ca> on Thursday August 21, 2014 @02:59PM (#47722955) Journal
    So they raised the critical temperature of a substance 3/20ths of a degree K above what it is otherwise, and the substance wasn't even among the category of what are considered high temperature supercondutors currently. Color me incredibly excited about this when they can raise the critical temperature of a superconductor to something like the freezing point of water... or even dry ice for that matter.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      High-temperature superconductors will become common when "ordinary" cooling is sufficient. Dry ice is impractical, that doesn't count. Can't pump it. In this case, we can make "ordinary cooling"concrete. Liquid nitrogen is too cold (77K); it causes condensation of nitrogen from the air. That's too bad because high-temperature superconductors still superconduct at the boling point of N2. But ethanol is a realistic coolant; it freezes below 159K. Propanol is even better at 147K.

      Unfortunately we don't have any

      • by mark-t (151149)
        I mentioned dry ice as an example not because you'd use dry ice to cool a superconductor directly, but because the temperatures necessary to make dry ice can be very easily achieved with inexpensive refrigeration techniques.
      • Frankly, I think we (meaning: those who design these sorts of things for a living) can deal with the issue of condensation out of the air.

        The big problem today is that so-called "high temperature" superconductors all have less than desirable properties. Some are amazingly fragile; some superconduct but can't really be worked/machined in any meaningful way; some are so difficult to make (at least reproducibly) that they can't be used for anything more than research. It's great we've gotten this far.

        As a prac

    • by AC-x (735297)

      Still, that represents a 4% increase in temperature, and also a completely new theory on why superconductors actually work.

  • I never ... (Score:4, Informative)

    by CaptainDork (3678879) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @04:09PM (#47723473)

    ... metamaterial I didn't like and stuff.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    But when they raise the critical temperature by 0.20, THEN I'll be impresses.

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