New Approach Could Bring Superconductors to More Applications

By Staff June 1, 2006

Researchers using nanotechnology have demonstrated a way to maintain high-temperature superconducting capabilities even in the presence of applied magnetic fields, such as those present in motors, generators and other equipment. Scientists say this discovery could lead to next-generation superconductors with broader applicability in the electric power sector of the economy.

Magnetic fields in the past have disrupted superconductor operation by disrupting naturally occurring vortices present in superconducting materials, resulting in electrical resistance and power dissipation. Investigators at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn., addressed this problem by adding non-superconductive “nanodots” throughout the thickness of the superconducting material. The nanodots are arranged in closely aligned columns that pin the vortices in place, even in the presence of a magnetic field.

Leaders in superconductivity research at the laboratory said that this advancement could enable further developments in overall superconductivity usage. Scientists working on this particular project are now teaming up with three U.S. companies to study possible commercialization of the new technology.