15th March, 2023 Science and Technology
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- Researchers at the University of Rochester have created a superconducting material at temperatures and pressures low enough for practical applications.
- Superconductivity is a set of physical properties observed in certain materials where electrical resistance vanishes and magnetic flux fields are expelled from the material.
- In this, materials to conduct direct current (DC) electricity without energy loss when they are cooled below a critical temperature(referred to as Tc). These materials also expel magnetic fields as they transition to the superconducting state.
- This capacity produces interesting and potentially useful effects. Superconductivity was first observed in 1911 by H. K. Onnes, a Dutch physicist.
- Superconductors have been employed in, or proposed for use in, an enormous variety of applications. Examples include high-speed magnetic-levitation trains, magnetic-resonance-imaging (MRI) equipment, ultra-high-speed computer chips, high-capacity digital memory chips, alternative energy storage systems, radio-frequency (RF) filters, radio-frequency amplifiers, sensitive visible-light and infrared detectors, miniaturized wireless transmitting antennas, systems to detect submarines and underwater mines, and gyroscopes for earth-orbiting satellites.
- The researchers describe a nitrogen-doped lutetium hydride (NDLH) that exhibits superconductivity at 69 degrees Fahrenheit and 10 kilobars (1,45,000 pounds per square inch, or psi) of pressure.
- That is about 10 times the pressure that is exerted at the bottom of the ocean’s deepest trenches.
Why is it important?
- It is important because the superconductors can now work at room temperature. Although superconductors have existed for nearly a century, their use was only feasible at unearthly, ultracold temperatures with limited applications if not negligible.
- For decades, scientists have sought superconductors that work at room temperature, and their hunt appears to have achieved fruition.
- If the breakthrough is confirmed in subsequent tests, it would help create devices that do not waste energy on heat when producing a current and could be used to create more efficient computers; superior X-ray technology; and even more powerful nuclear reactors.
- Scientists have been pursuing this breakthrough in condensed matter physics for more than a century. Superconducting materials have two key properties: electrical resistance vanishes, and the magnetic fields that are expelled pass around the superconducting material. Such materials could enable:
- Power grids that transmit electricity without the loss of up to 200 million megawatt hours (MWh) of energy that now occurs due to resistance in the wires.
- More affordable medical imaging and scanning techniques such as MRI and magnetocardiography.
- Faster, more efficient electronics for digital logic and memory device technology.
- Tokamak machines use magnetic fields to confine plasmas to achieve fusion as a source of unlimited power.
- The first known superconductors required temperatures only a few degrees above absolute zero or minus 459.67 degrees Fahrenheit. In the 1980s, physicists discovered high-temperature superconductors whose applicability was minimal in everyday life.
- The deployment of the technology of room temperature superconductors at atmospheric pressure would accelerate the electrification of our world for its sustainable development. The technology allows us to do more work and use less natural resources with lower waste to preserve the environment.
- The latest discovery adds a luminous layer of applicability for the use of superconductors in everyday life.
MAINS PRACTICE QUESTION
Q. The deployment of the technology of room temperature superconductors at atmospheric pressure would accelerate the electrification of our world for its sustainable development. What is the future of superconductivity? Elucidate.