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What Is a SuperConductor?

World's smallest superconductor: just 87nm wide

Superconductors are the next viable step in energy savings worldwide. They are being used to carry energy in Sweden, USA, Japan, and the list extends pretty fast to other countries.

What is a superconductor?

Ok, this following paragraph is for the absolute-beginner.

As you know starting with 6th grade physics, a wire made of copper or aluminum or some other electricity-conductive material, heats when it is connected to a voltage source to one side and has a consumer (such as a drilling machine or an electrical heater) on the other side. It heats because its resistance to the passing current is way from being zero. So, the energy that the source (e.g. the battery) gives the consumer is not the same with the energy that reaches that consumer. It is smaller, because of the loss from the heated wires. That’s the most simple explanation I can ever give this phenomena, that anyone can understand and remember from primary school. The equation is I(current, measured in Amperes or Amps)=U(voltage, measured in Volts)/R (resistance, measured in ohms).

So, by common sense, if that resistance R goes high and the voltage U remains the same, the current I is getting smaller. If R goes low down to zero, I is getting infinitely high (of course, this could never happen).

Now, if we lower the temperature of the metal or metal conglomerate that the conducting material is made from to -200 degrees Celsius or to the temperature of liquid nitrogen, we get a superconductor, one that opposes a much smaller force to the passing of the current through it.

It has other properties, too. For example, it is diamagnetic, which means it can levitate a magnet put above it by repelling all of its magnetic field, whatever the magnet’s polarization is.


This example above is called diamagnetism. Now, for the environmental part. Motors have been built using superconductors instead of copper. Their size is much smaller and the energy taken to produce the same torque effect is even more diminished. I will give further examples of these motors in future posts.

And the experiment part,
for which I have to thank chemsoc.org, you can find here. It is a project meant to guide you in a step-by-step fabrication of a superconductor. You will need several materials from the chem store, and a little patience.
Have fun!

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