What is a Superconductor? Definition, Types, and Uses
What is a Superconductor?
Superconductivity is when a material’s resistance is zero when its temperature falls below a certain value. Superconducting materials have the ability to continuously transfer non-heated energy. Superconductor is an adjective applied to materials that cease to resist the passage of electric current when cooled. Thus, at a certain temperature, the material becomes a perfect type of electrical conductor. Thanks to superconductors, plans are being made that will carry today’s technology further, such as drones that do not run out of charge and circuits that do not heat.
Let’s consider it in a little more detail. Discovery of the superconductor Superconductivity was first discovered by Heike Kamerlingh Onnes in 1911. Heike Kamerlingh Onnes, in his experiments on solid mercury, discovered that when the temperature drops below 4.2 Kelvin, the resistance drops to zero. Later, it was discovered that not only solid mercury but also many materials such as lead and niobium nitrate exhibit superconductivity.
Materials such as gold, silver, and copper are also conductors, but they can never be superconductors. These substances do not decrease their resistance to zero even if the temperature is absolute zero (the lowest possible temperature) due to the impurity of the metal and the defects in its structure. In superconducting materials, when the temperature drops below a certain value, the resistance is completely zeroed and the material becomes superconducting. Once an electric current passes over a superconducting material, it can continue to flow without receiving power from any source.
What Are Superconducting Materials?
It is possible to obtain superconducting material from more than 20 metallic elements. 27 chemical elements, all metals, have superconductivity in their crystal-graphic form at atmospheric pressure. Among these, the most common superconducting materials are: Aluminum, Lead, Mercury, Rhenium, Lanthanum, Proctantium.
Although not as common as these superconducting materials, the following materials are also superconductors: Uranium, Selenium, Cerium, Silicon like metal and semiconductors, 11 elements turn into super conductors when low temperature and high-pressure conditions are met.
Usage Areas of Superconductors
Superconductors are beneficial in many areas. The usage areas of superconductors are as follows.
Super magnets are the strongest magnets known. It is used in MR Machines, mass spectrometers, and beam guiding magnets in particle accelerators. It is also possible to use it for magnetic separation.
They have been used in the construction of experimental digital computers with cryotron switches. While this usage corresponds to the years 1950 and 1960, if we look at a more recent usage; we can see that the fast single current quantum technology is used in the construction of digital cycles.
It is known that high-temperature superconductors have started to be used in some marketing areas due to their size and cost advantages. For example, it is cheaper to build wind turbine with superconducting materials. Although the areas of use of superconductors seem to be limited to these, I am sure we will hear the name more in the future. Because, there are many fields such as power storage devices, electric motors, magnetic amplification devices and superconducting magnetic freezing among the future usage areas.