Length: 914 words (2.6 double-spaced pages)
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Superconductors consist of an element, inter-metallic alloy, or compound that will conduct electricity without resistance (loss of energy flowing through the material) below a certain temperature. Once in motion, electrical current will flow forever in a closed loop of superconducting material, hence the high demand of such a product.
The development of superconductors has been a working progress for many years and some superconductors are already in use, but there is always room for improvement. In 1911, Dutch physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes first discovered superconductivity when he cooled mercury to 4 degrees K (-452.47º F / -269.15º C). At this temperature, mercury’s resistance to electricity seemed to disappear. Hence, it was necessary for Onnes to come within 4 degrees of the coldest temperature that is theoretically attainable to witness the phenomenon of superconductivity. Later, in 1933 Walter Meissner and Robert Ochsenfeld discovered that a superconducting material will repel a magnetic field. A magnet moving by a conductor induces currents in the conductor, which is the principle upon which the electric generator operates. However, in a superconductor the induced currents exactly mirror the field that would have otherwise penetrated the superconducting material - causing the magnet to be repulsed- known today as the “Meissner effect.” The Meissner effect is so strong that a magnet can actually be levitated over a superconductive material, which increases the use of superconductors. After many other superconducting elements, compounds, and theories related to superconductivity were developed or discovered a great breakthrough was made. In 1986, Alex Muller and Georg Bednorz invented a ceramic substance which superconducted at the highest temperature then known: 30 K (-243.15º C). This discovery was remarkable because ceramics are normally insulators – they do not conduct electricity well. Since their discovery the highest temperature for superconductivity to occur is 138 K (-130.15º C).
The uses of superconductors are innumerable. They are used in the medical field often, so their use if valuable to common citizens such as yourself and me. Their uses medically include MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) so that doctors do not have to invade the human body for exams, as well as speeding the results of the exams to almost instant information.
Superconductors may be used for taking x-rays and transferring information quickly to doctors far away. Superconductors have other uses as well, such as transportation. The magnetic-levitation property of superconductors mentioned earlier allows transport vehicles to “float” above their track, almost eliminating friction and increases the speed at which that vehicle travels greatly. The Minister of Transport authorized construction of the Yamanashi Maglev Test Line, which opened on April 3, 1997. In December 2003, the MLX01 test vehicle attained an incredible speed of 361 mph (581 kph). Thus, the opportunity to allow transportation at such awesome speeds greatly improves the demand for superconductors and information concerning them. The use of superconductors by the armed forces is great ranging from weapons to locating devices, which allows the forces to defend themselves and locate the enemy. The E-bomb, which was recently used when we attacked Iraq in March 2003 to shut down their electronic equipment, is another example of the use superconductors. In addition, to these technologically advanced uses are the practical utilizations by “average Joes.” Power utilities have begun to use superconducting generators to supply electricity and reduce the amount of space occupied by the traditional copper generators.
Future uses of superconductors are grand and impressive. Scientists are currently investigating the possibility of “petaflop” computers, which would be a thousand times faster than the fastest computers today. We can see the use of computers today and how they are becoming more employed in our daily life, which means that money- making opportunities are great when dealing with computers, especially with making them operate faster. Superconductors may also play a role in the internet soon, allowing the transfer of information to be even quicker than it is already. The future applications of superconductors are countless especially with computers, armed forces, and the medical worlds. The weaponry of armies will become more reliant on these energy saving devices and that pack incredible power in small devices. As a better understanding of superconductors is developed, they will become a necessity in the medical world as well as the biology behind it. Generators that carry the electricity to our homes will also become more dependent on superconductors as the demands continue to increase and transport vehicles will be able to travel at even greater speeds, as this fast-paced world becomes faster.
The opportunity to become part of this project is like a dream come true. You could be the next Bill Gates. According to June 2002 estimates by the Conectus consortium, the worldwide market for superconductor products is projected to grow to near US $5 billion by the year 2010 and to US $38 billion by 2020. Superconductors are the future and you might as well be part of it. You could improve your financial status greatly by contributing to the development of such important and groundbreaking technology. The future for superconductors is bright, and anything that can conserve energy and space while improving efficiency is sure to last. Place your money with the future and watch it grow; invest in the research of superconductors.