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Owners of thoroughbred stallions carefully breed prizewinning horses over generations to eke out fractions of a second in million-dollar races. Materials scientists have taken a page from that playbook, turning to the power of evolution and artificial selection to develop superconductors that can transmit electric current as efficiently as possible.

Perhaps counterintuitively, most applied can operate at high magnetic fields because they contain defects. The number, size, shape and position of the defects within a superconductor work together to enhance the carrying capacity in the presence of a magnetic field. Too many defects, however, can lead to blocking the electric current pathway or a breakdown of the superconducting material, so scientists need to be selective in how they incorporate defects into a material.

In a new study from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, researchers used the power of artificial intelligence and high-performance supercomputers to introduce and assess the impact of different configurations of defects on the performance of a superconductor.

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Category: Science