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Researchers from the University of Houston have reported a new way to raise the transition temperature of superconducting materials, boosting the temperature at which the superconductors are able to operate.

The results, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest a previously unexplored avenue for achieving higher-temperature superconductivity, which offers a number of potential benefits to energy generators and consumers.

Electric current can move through superconducting materials without resistance, while traditional transmission materials lose as much as 10 percent of the energy between the generating source and the end user. Finding superconductors that work at or near room temperature—current superconductors require the use of a cooling agent—could allow utility companies to provide more electricity without increasing the amount of fuel required, reducing their carbon footprint and improving the reliability and efficiency of the power grid.

The transition temperature increased exponentially for the materials tested using the new method, although it remained below room temperature. But Paul C.W. Chu, chief scientist at the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH (TcSUH) and corresponding author for the paper, said the method offers an entirely new way to approach the problem of finding superconductors that work at a higher temperature.

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