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Japan Science Technology

Red Wine and the Secret of Superconductivity 105

cold fjord writes "Red wine is a popular marinade for meat, but it also may become a popular treatment for creating iron-based superconductors as well (Link to academic paper): 'Last year, a group of Japanese physicists grabbed headlines around the world by announcing that they could induce superconductivity in a sample of iron telluride by soaking it in red wine. They found that other alcoholic drinks also worked — white wine, beer, sake and so on — but red wine was by far the best. The question, of course, is why. What is it about red wine that does the trick? Today, these guys provide an answer — at least in part. Keita Deguchi at the National Institute for Materials Science in Tsukuba, Japan, and a few buddies, say the mystery ingredient is tartaric acid and have the experimental data to show that it plays an important role in the process. ... It turns out the best performer is a wine made from the gamay grape — for the connoisseurs, that's a 2009 Beajoulais from the Paul Beaudet winery in central France.'"
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Red Wine and the Secret of Superconductivity

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  • by TheCouchPotatoFamine ( 628797 ) on Saturday March 24, 2012 @05:58PM (#39462699)

    I mean, does it have chemical properties that have confounded the best minds? Er.. the best minds with a grant to buy wine, that is? No, kidding, but wikipedia says Tartaric acid in grapes,etc also played a role in the discovery of chirality, ( And, in the grocery store the SO, i wondered about what cream of tartar really was... To wit: I know what my next grant proposal should be!

  • Why did they do this (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HuguesT ( 84078 ) on Saturday March 24, 2012 @06:33PM (#39462841)

    By far, the more interesting question about this discovery is what kind of reasoning brought these researchers to dip their samples in wine and test if superconductivity would emerge? Did they try some other random stuff from tap water to fluorhydric acid via a collection of leftover drinks they had in the closet, or does this experiment proceed from some well formed theoretical background ?

  • by garyebickford ( 222422 ) <> on Saturday March 24, 2012 @08:01PM (#39463319)

    "It's not often you find a wine that goes well with your dinner and you can burn in your furnace."

    Man, I've had that wine. My neighbor many years ago used to make his own. His purpose was not drinkability, it was alcohol content. He was breeding yeasts that would survive in higher levels of alcohol, so he could get 'hardness' without illegally distilling.

    Actually it's a classic how-geeks-do-things story. He was an electrical engineer, who came from a family of botanists. Being of Swedish extraction, his tolerance for alcohol was very high - for 20 years he had an eight ounce glass of vodka for breakfast, and then went off to work designing the first 700 KV DC intertie for Bonneville Power, delivering power over 1000 miles from the Columbia River to Sacramento. He ran through a fifth of vodka every day. This was expensive.

    (Side note - being a geek he figured out that he was getting all the calories he needed from the vodka, but he needed minerals, vitamins, protein, etc. - so he made a special bread that provided all the other needs, and ate a sandwich every day.)

    As it happened, he had an 'in' at the local college that had a small nuclear reactor for medical isotopes. So over several years he regularly irradiated yeast cultures to accelerate mutations, and then subjected them to increasing levels of alcohol, selecting for tolerance.

    After several years, he got to the point of making wine (from blackberries on my family's place) that was 26 % alcohol - 52 proof. It tasted worse than paint thinner and a five ounce glass would put me out for the rest of the evening. But it was a totally legal home-brewed 'wine'.

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling