Optimizing a novel superconducting material

Jul 24, 2012
Optimizing a novel superconducting material
Credit: Thinkstock

Superconducting materials are widely used in the electrical instrumentation industry. European researchers made significant progress in enhancing superconductivity of a novel material currently the focus of worldwide interest.

The unique property of superconductors, essentially no resistance to current flow (almost ideal ), makes them attractive for a wide variety of existing and future applications.

Conventional superconductors achieve their special properties when supercooled to near absolute with expensive cryogenic liquid (such as or helium) cooling. High-temperature superconductors (HTSs), on the other hand, exhibit these properties at relatively – very cold but much less relative to conventional .

While HTSs eliminate the need for expensive cooling procedures, one main drawback has been the brittleness of associated materials. This makes it difficult to manufacture flexible wires, increasing labour costs and wasted material.

Magnesium diboride (MgB2), a recently discovered superconducting material with the highest known transition temperature (at which it becomes superconducting) has generated much enthusiasm.

MgB2 could become the superconducting material of choice in numerous medium-range magnetic field applications such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). European companies already play a dominant role in MRI and the use of low-cost MgB2 could substantially enhance European competitiveness in a large global market.

In addition, the energy sector, in particular related to liquid hydrogen, could move ahead substantially thanks to financial, environmental and functionality benefits afforded by the use of MgB2.

EU researchers initiated the Hipermag project to enhance the performance of MgB2 and thus increase commercial applicability and market penetration. Researchers successfully optimised the microstructure of precursor powders, demonstrating enhanced superconducting properties of carbon-doped nanosized precursors and wires (monofilamentary tapes).

They then developed powder processing techniques leading to development of multifilamentary conductors housed in metallic sheaths. The materials provided the enhanced mechanical stability lacking until now.

Researchers also improved current-carrying capabilities, employing a variety of microscopic and spectroscopic techniques to determine the preferred orientation of MgB2 crystallites. Finally, they evaluated the stability of the superconductors in magnetic fields, explaining novel experimental results with theoretical descriptions.

MgB2 is an intriguing superconducting material with numerous potential uses. Limitations to its commercial exploitation were partially overcome via research carried out by the Hipermag consortium. Future applications include medical imaging and renewable energy.

Explore further: Warming up the world of superconductors

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Stripes offer clues to superconductivity

May 17, 2010

New images of iron-based superconductors are providing telltale clues to the origin of superconductivity in a class of ceramic materials known as pnictides. The images reveal that electrons responsible for ...

Secrets behind high temperature superconductors revealed

Feb 22, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists from Queen Mary, University of London and the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) have found evidence that magnetism is involved in the mechanism behind high temperature superconductivity.

Recommended for you

A new X-ray microscope for nanoscale imaging

15 minutes ago

Delivering the capability to image nanostructures and chemical reactions down to nanometer resolution requires a new class of x-ray microscope that can perform precision microscopy experiments using ultra-bright ...

New research signals big future for quantum radar

11 hours ago

A prototype quantum radar that has the potential to detect objects which are invisible to conventional systems has been developed by an international research team led by a quantum information scientist at the University ...

Top-precision optical atomic clock starts ticking

14 hours ago

A state-of-the-art optical atomic clock, collaboratively developed by scientists from the University of Warsaw, Jagiellonian University, and Nicolaus Copernicus University, is now "ticking away" at the National ...

The building blocks of the future defy logic

19 hours ago

Wake up in the morning and stretch; your midsection narrows. Pull on a piece of plastic at separate ends; it becomes thinner. So does a rubber band. One might assume that when a force is applied along an ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

axemaster
not rated yet Jul 24, 2012
Magnesium diboride (MgB2), a recently discovered superconducting material with the highest known transition temperature (at which it becomes superconducting) has generated much enthusiasm.

Wow, this article really fails when it comes to accuracy. MgB2 is a conventional superconductor, discovered in 2001, and its critical temperature is 39K. Far from the highest - for example YBCO (Type-II superconductor) has a critical temp of 92K. Given that liquid nitrogen only goes down to 77K, MgB2 would require liquid helium coolant, meaning any machine using it would be both incredibly bulky and expensive to run.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.