High-temperature Superconductor: Bednorz and Muller transform conductivity
Superconductors are materials that have no electrical resistance, so electricity can flow through them without any loss. The superconductivity phenomenon was first discovered in 1911 by researchers in Germany who used solid mercury material. Superconductivity was at first seen only in certain substances when super cooled to temperatures close to absolute zero or -4590 F (-2730 C)-the coldest temperature theoretically possible.
In 1986 Georg Bednorz (Birth Year: 1950) and Alex Muller (Birth Year: 1927) both researchers at IBM discovered a new type of superconducting material, copper oxide perovskites, that could super conduct at -3960 F (-2380 C). Paul Chu at the University of Houston, improved on this by bringing the superconducting temperature up to a relatively balmy -2960 F (-1820 C).
For the first time, superconductivity could be made to occur at temperatures in the range of liquid nitrogen. The discovery quickly led to a huge meeting of physicists in New York, a meeting that became known as the “Woodstock of Physics”.
In 1987 Bednorz and Muller were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics and in the same year, United States president Ronald Reagan declared that the United States was about to enter a new area of technology and thanks to high-temperature superconductors.
Although the technology has yet to take over the world, high-temperature superconductors have found applications in MRI medical scanners and in special superconducting wires and cooled by a sheath of liquid nitrogen. Japan uses coils of this super wire for their experimental maglev train and the United States Navy is researching the use of the wire for their next generation of ships.