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A New Family of High-Temperature Superconductors

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the mister-nobel-to-a-white-courtesy-telephone-please dept.

Supercomputing 113

sciencehabit writes to let us know that physicists are hailing the discovery of a new type of superconductor as a "major advance." The new materials could solve the biggest mystery in condensed matter physics — i.e., how and why cuprate superconductors work — as well as paving the way for practical magnetic levitation and lossless transmission of energy. "God only knows where it will go," says one Nobel Laureate. After the discovery of superconductivity in an iron-and-arsenic compound at 26 kelvin, several Chinese research groups quickly found related materials that are superconducting up to 55K. (Cuprates go as high as 138K; liquid nitrogen boils at 77K.)

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eat my shorts slashdot !! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23118400)

Eat my shorts slashdot !!

BUT! (-1, Offtopic)

aeskdar (1136689) | more than 6 years ago | (#23118410)

But does it run Linux?

Higgs? (1, Offtopic)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#23118500)

"God only knows where it will go," says one Nobel Laureate.

They found the Higgs boson? [wikipedia.org]

Re:Higgs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23118904)

That's not implied by the quote.

Somethings that *it implies* is that there aren't more technologically advanced civilizations in the universe that know the roadmap to higher-temperature superconductors. I'd like to see the Nobel Laureate's proof of that because it's quite a profound statement.

Re:Higgs? (1)

philspear (1142299) | more than 6 years ago | (#23119606)

I know where it will go: really efficient wires. For electricity. Also maybe like a hoverskateboard. Am I God?

Re:Higgs? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23121342)

You're reading it wrong. He's saying that the only thing God knows is that where this superconductor technology will go. That's a very strange statement. It's hard to imagine having that piece of data be the only thing you know.

Re:Higgs? (1)

Ceriel Nosforit (682174) | more than 6 years ago | (#23120290)

It's a misquote BTW, taking the whole thing out of context. The full quote is:

"If it's really a new mechanism, God knows where it will go," he says.

One must at the very least indicate that it is a partial quote, like so:

"...God knows where it will go."

The "..." indicates that the first part has been cut off.

Hot! (0)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 6 years ago | (#23118506)

"High-Temperature Superconductors", the article say somewhere that "ignited a firestorm of research", and all of that because the temp at which are superconductors is 55 not celcius, not farenheit, but kelvin.

I know that from very few over 0k to 55k there is a big difference, not sure how high they can reach, but still, looks a bit too low for "practical" implementation yet.

Re:Hot! (4, Interesting)

Ctrl-Z (28806) | more than 6 years ago | (#23118644)

The "firestorm" was ignited by the discovery of cuprate semiconductors, which "have critical temperatures in excess of 90 kelvin"[1], which is above the temperature of liquid nitrogen.

[1]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superconductor [wikipedia.org]

Re:Hot! (3, Interesting)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#23118802)

The article specifically mentions 138 kelvins as the highest temperature where cuprates still hold on to superconductivity. That's roughly -115 degrees celsius. This greatly increases the viability of the material by greatly reducing the energy required to hold it at a critical temperature. Think about the wide extent to which liquid nitrogen is used.

Currently we are in the stage of trying to understand just what exactly is going on at the particle level. Once we move past this research stage (disclaimer: it's been going on for twenty years), the possibilities these materials provide are pretty much endless.

Re:Hot! (5, Funny)

DieByWire (744043) | more than 6 years ago | (#23120812)

The article specifically mentions 138 kelvins as the highest temperature where cuprates still hold on to superconductivity. That's roughly -115 degrees celsius.

I believe you mean -135 degrees celsius.

That last twenty degrees is what keeps Minnesota from superconducting in winter.

Re:Hot! (2, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#23122624)

The big deal with this discovery isn't that the possibilities the new materials they've found are endless. They actually underperform what we already have. It's that we don't understand how what we have (cuprate superconductors) works, but if we did, we could potentially find much higher-temperature superconductors. This gives us a key to help understand high temperature superconductivity. And the possibilities of high-temperature superconductors would be endless (assuming they could be made affordably).

Re:Hot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23120072)

I keep reading "cupcake semiconductor"...

Re:Hot! (0, Offtopic)

Joe Snipe (224958) | more than 6 years ago | (#23120686)

For a less technical view of how cool this is:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=-RJwqkWawcU

Re:Hot! (4, Informative)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 6 years ago | (#23118724)

Well there is a huge difference in the price for using Liquid Nitrogin vs. Liquid Helium. Right now for superconductors used in MRI's they use Liquid Helium at 4k. And they use Liquid Nitrogin as an insolator to protect caseing from cracking. At roughly $1000.00 per leter of Liquid He, Liquid Nitrogin is much cheaper. Anf if they can get to a point where you can maintain superconductivity at Dry Ice level it would cause far more advances in society.

Re:Hot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23119436)

There are superconductors that work above the boiling point of nitrogen though right? Why not use those instead? Do the cost/problems offset the saving in coolant?

Re:Hot! (2, Informative)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 6 years ago | (#23119958)

All these new materials are ridiculously brittle and difficult to form ceramics, so making coils and so forth is a major PITA and helium actually works out cheaper in practice.

Re:Hot! (2, Informative)

Agripa (139780) | more than 6 years ago | (#23120094)

There are superconductors that work above the boiling point of nitrogen though right? Why not use those instead? Do the cost/problems offset the saving in coolant?

My understanding is that their lack of malleability as well as their very low critical current density prevents large scale use.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/YBCO [wikipedia.org]

Re:Hot! (4, Informative)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#23119576)

Where do you get $1k/L? A quick google search turns up $3-5 per liter, which is about what I recalled. LN2, of course, is much cheaper -- $0.25 in small quantities, $0.05 per liter or less in very large quantities.

Dry ice is more expensive than LN2, because you have to pay for the CO2, rather than just liquefying air. But if you don't actually need dry ice, then dry ice temps are certainly cheaper to reach than LN2 temps.

Re:Hot! (3, Funny)

nmos (25822) | more than 6 years ago | (#23120062)

Where do you get $1k/L? A quick google search turns up $3-5 per liter

Well duh! He's talking about MEDICAL liquid HE which is obviously much more expensive than normal liquid HE. Ever get a bandaid put on at a hospital?

Re:Hot! (1)

hardburn (141468) | more than 6 years ago | (#23124966)

Does medical liquid HE work like audiophile wooden volume knobs?

Re:Hot! (5, Informative)

krlynch (158571) | more than 6 years ago | (#23119828)

At roughly $1000.00 per leter of Liquid He, Liquid Nitrogin is much cheaper.


You've got the right idea, but your numbers are a bit out of whack ... LN2 is about $0.10/L in large quantity, while LHe is about $3-20/L, with large variation in price around the world (due to constrained supply and large transportation and energy costs). US He is relatively cheap, as we have a few of the small number of high quality sources. In Europe, He is very much more expensive, as they don't have any local, high quality sources. A recent compilation of costs is available here: http://hypertextbook.com/facts/2007/NadyaDillon.shtml [hypertextbook.com]

Helium is so expensive, because it is very entery intensive to liquify, and it isn't commercially extracted from the atmosphere like nitrogen ... there just isn't enough of it to be commercially viable. Instead, it is generally found in pockets underground and "mined". The helium originates as alpha particles in the decay of radioisotopes (mostly Uranium and Thorium), and permeates through the crust. It gets trapped in high pressure gas pockets by impermeable rocks, in the same types of geology that trap natural gas, and is extracted for commercial scale from those pockets. There are only a few global sources where the concentrations of helium are high enough to extract economically.

Liquid Neon as a refrigerant (2, Informative)

billstewart (78916) | more than 6 years ago | (#23123468)

Most gasses have boiling points higher than nitrogen's, but there's at least one option between cheap liquid nitrogen and expensive liquid helium, which is liquid Neon [wikipedia.org] , which boils at 24.5 kelvin. The Wikipedia article says it's not cheap, but not as expensive as liquid helium, has better refrigeration properties, and is extracted from air rather than rare sources that risk exhaustion.

liquid nitrogen 77K is the goal (2, Informative)

spineboy (22918) | more than 6 years ago | (#23118762)

A big goal is to get superconductors to work at 77K, because then they can be cooled by cheap liquid nitrogen. Lower than that, you have to use liquid helium(I think) which is quite expensive.

Re:liquid nitrogen 77K is the goal (1)

Ken_g6 (775014) | more than 6 years ago | (#23123048)

Technically, a superconductor that works at over 20.28 K can be cooled by liquid hydrogen.

One problem, of course, is that liquid hydrogen is rocket fuel!

Re:Hot! (5, Informative)

ThreeGigs (239452) | more than 6 years ago | (#23118770)

The excitement isn't about superconductivity at 55K by itself. It's got everyone excited because, *finally*, there's something besides cuprates that superconducts above about 33K (which defines high temperature in the superconductor world).

Now, instead of having just one 'family' of HTSC materials to base hypotheses and theories upon, scientists now have TWO. Now they can compare similarities and differences between those two families. This gives them a HUGE boost towards figuring out the exact mechanism involved, plus potential leads on new materials that exhibit similar atomic structure which could also superconduct.

Very Hot! (3, Insightful)

l2718 (514756) | more than 6 years ago | (#23118792)

1. "High T_c" is a technical term. Indeed, 55 kelvin is "high" (though not as high as the record for cuprates). You have to compare it with the typical T_c for metals (a few kelvin). The difference is between liquid helium temperatures and liquid nitrogen temperatures (which cuprates have reached already and perhaps the new compounds also will).

2. More improtantly, this will ignite a "firestorm of research". You see, we don't have a good model of high T_c superconductivity (unlike the BCS [wikipedia.org] model for metals). Having several different superconducting systems will help theorists isolate the significant features of the system from the less significant ones.

3. Seeing superconductivity in a totally new material is exciting. This is interesting basic research even if today we dont' have a practical application. If we don't do the research we'll never get to the practical stage.

There's already practical implementations... (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#23118808)

I know of at least 5 superconductor power lines installed in the USA.

The important point was getting over 77k, where the relatively cheap liquid nitrogen can be used instead of other things like liquid helium.

Re:There's already practical implementations... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23118910)

Of course, at 77k, you could run the lines through Soviet Russia... in the summertime! aaa ha ha ha. /isr temperature jokes

Re:There's already practical implementations... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23119032)

Please enlighten us with your knowledge.

Re:There's already practical implementations... (1)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 6 years ago | (#23119716)

I recall something in the news about a HTS cable being installed in Albany, NY in... 2006? IIRC it wasn't especially impressive - a single cable that shunted power between substations several blocks away.

I'm not aware of any others and would also love to hear about them.
=Smidge=

Re:There's already practical implementations... (2, Interesting)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#23119872)

There's 3 in Chicago that replaced either 7 or 11 oil cooled copper lines. The power company actually made money on that while increasing capacity I hear. They pulled out and sold the copper to cover the cost of the conductors. The LN cost is covered by reduced heat losses and the elimination of the need to pump & cool the oil.

Re:Hot! (1)

bperkins (12056) | more than 6 years ago | (#23118894)

looks a bit too low for "practical" implementation yet.

At this point people are more interested in the physics rather than the practical applications.

This discovery is pretty important, because as TFA says, the exact mechanism that allows high temperature superconductivity to occur isn't widely agreed upon. Another system to study makes it much more likely that theorists will agree on exactly how this works.

US science is dying? (-1, Flamebait)

megaditto (982598) | more than 6 years ago | (#23119156)

I am more interested as to why American scientists weren't the first in on this, and why such cutting-edge research is being done in China (a poor third-world country).

Re:US science is dying? (3, Insightful)

peragrin (659227) | more than 6 years ago | (#23119326)

If you think China is a poor third world country then you are going to be shocked.
China is mostly a second world country, isn't very poor(the USA is spending trillions there), currently is almost able to duplicate just about every technologically advanced device being built.

there was a chinese company called NEC which duplicated the Real NEC's tv's poorly but close enough to work for several years before they got caught.

While it will be another 5-10 years China is rapidly building up technology, science, and math. They have the manpower power and will, just like japan had 30 years ago. Remember 40 years ago the Japanese only made junk, 20 years later they owned the electronics market, and 10 years after that had some of the best selling cars out there.

Re:US science is dying? (2, Interesting)

Digi-John (692918) | more than 6 years ago | (#23119432)

there was a chinese company called NEC which duplicated the Real NEC's tv's poorly but close enough to work for several years before they got caught.

Not only did they make the TVs, but apparently they also dealt with real NEC plants on a regular basis, and due to poor organization, nobody caught on.

Re:US science is dying? (1)

Anpheus (908711) | more than 6 years ago | (#23121268)

If I recall, they didn't just go so far as to imitate NEC, but even had their own infrastructure set up, and their own R&D set up to allow them to offer devices that the real NEC never did.

Re:US science is dying? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23119680)

If you think China is a poor third world country then you are going to be shocked.
China is mostly a second world country


"First world", "second world", and "third world" are not some ranking of affluence. "X world country" was an old Cold War term. First world nations were those aligned with the West. Second world nations were those aligned with the Soviets. Third world nations were those aligned with neither. Since the fall of the USSR, there is no longer such thing as a second world country.

Third world countries tended to be poor and underdeveloped. Now "third world" has become synonymous with "poor", but it is really a misnomer.

Re:US science is dying? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23120140)

Mod parent up. I see these terms misused all the time.

Re:US science is dying? (1)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 6 years ago | (#23121078)

No, actually third world is the only correct usage of the group. The other 2 are Old World (Eurasia) and New World (The Americas).
Third world is so named because it is neither of the other two.

Re:US science is dying? (1)

thewiltog (906494) | more than 6 years ago | (#23121594)

I thought the origin of Third World was much earlier. Old World = Europe/Middle East. New World = Americas/Australasia. Third World = The Rest.

Re:US science is dying? (1)

Sri.Theo (983977) | more than 6 years ago | (#23121870)

Nope, it's pretty much known as dating to the Cold War. India, China ect were all part of the old world i.e. known about before the America's, extensive trade in spices and textiles took place between the two regions.

Re:US science is dying? (1)

Hucko (998827) | more than 6 years ago | (#23121970)

Australia is a third world country??? eep!

Re:US science is dying? (1)

thewiltog (906494) | more than 6 years ago | (#23122432)

Actually, 2nd world or new world

Re:US science is dying? (4, Insightful)

What Would NPH Do (1274934) | more than 6 years ago | (#23119378)

I am more interested as to why American scientists weren't the first in on this,
Because despite the jingoist tune, the US hasn't been the forefront of technology and science for quite some time. When you have creationists trying to ruin science education all across the country it's not that surprising.

and why such cutting-edge research is being done in China (a poor third-world country).
China is poor? Since when? They're raking in the dough which is why they also hold 1/3 of the US national debt. Besides, countries in Southeast Asia have been pumping out cutting edge research for years now. If you were to shed the chauvinism for a few hours you might have noticed this already.

Re:US science is dying? (1)

megaditto (982598) | more than 6 years ago | (#23119590)

Sure has. US is number one, see here: [nsf.gov]

The United States has the largest share of all internationally authored papers of any single country, and its researchers collaborate with counterparts in more countries than do the researchers of any other country.
U.S.-based authors were represented in 44% of all internationally coauthored articles in 2003 and collaborated with authors in 172 of the 192 countries that had any internationally coauthored articles in 2003.

And here: [in-cites.com]
US ranked #1 at 3 times the number of papers than any other countries, and 5 times greater in number of citation (five times!)

Doing almost 50% of World's research isn't bad considering we have only 5% of the World's population. Guess that anwers my previous question: at 25% of World's population China was bound to discover something of use sooner or later...

Re:US science is dying? (1)

What Would NPH Do (1274934) | more than 6 years ago | (#23119730)

Guess that anwers my previous question: at 25% of World's population China was bound to discover something of use sooner or later...
If you think China hasn't been doing major advances in science and engineering then you're either blinded by your jingoism or you don't actually read much in the way of science/technical journals.

Re:US science is dying? (1)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 6 years ago | (#23120914)

In the immortal words of Homer Simpson: A little from column A, and a little from column B.

Re:US science is dying? (1)

What Would NPH Do (1274934) | more than 6 years ago | (#23119762)

How about a break down of how much of that US research is by foreign scientists brought into the US. I'd be willing to bet you'll find it's a significant number. The very fact is that its' been reported all around that scientists and engineers are having to be imported in from other countries because the number of well educated "native" scientists/engineers has been declining.

Re:US science is dying? (3, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#23120892)

Let me first say, the idea of US science "dying" is just silly. And yes, for the moment we are leading.

Hanging on to our lead, on the other hand, is doubtful [scidev.net] : "Cited papers first-authored by Chinese scientists -- an important indicator of scientific creativity -- increased by 25.3 per cent in 2006, and the number of times they were cited increased 28.3 per cent. However, China remains thirteenth in terms of total citation numbers." At that rate, China won't be in 13th for long.

From the global perspective it doesn't matter; all this means mankind as a whole is simply progressing much faster now. But from the US nationalist perspective, this definitely decreases our ability to compete for increasingly scarce natural resources. We've already seen this occur drastically in the price of oil.

Re:US science is dying? (1)

philspear (1142299) | more than 6 years ago | (#23119696)

Because despite the jingoist tune, the US hasn't been the forefront of technology and science for quite some time. When you have creationists trying to ruin science education all across the country it's not that surprising.

How are creationists ruining superconducting research? (I'm not defending them, I'm looking for more ammo.)

And so as to defend myself, in some fields, like biomedical research, I think the US is still putting out the most and the highest-impact research papers.

Re:US science is dying? (1)

What Would NPH Do (1274934) | more than 6 years ago | (#23119822)

How are creationists ruining superconducting research? (I'm not defending them, I'm looking for more ammo.)
I was talking about science education in general, not this particular area.

And so as to defend myself, in some fields, like biomedical research, I think the US is still putting out the most and the highest-impact research papers.
Sure, by an increasing number of foreign scientists.

Re:US science is dying? (1)

megaditto (982598) | more than 6 years ago | (#23121928)

Foreign-born scientists. There's a big difference here since it doesn't actually matter where they were born so long as they work for us now.

Re:US science is dying? (1)

What Would NPH Do (1274934) | more than 6 years ago | (#23122144)

Yes, that is what I meant. But actually it does matter. The very fact that more and more of the US research is being done by foreign-born scientists somewhat mutes the "FUCK YEAH AMERICA!" jingoism when it comes to proclaiming the US as being the center of science/technology research. If another country like China starts nabbing these people up more and more, the US today is going to be less and less in a position to lead with only it's native-born scientists/engineers.

Re:US science is dying? (1)

Slime-dogg (120473) | more than 6 years ago | (#23122284)

When you have creationists trying to ruin science education all across the country it's not that surprising.

This is a red herring.

I would chalk the lack of advancement up to the lack of need for it. We can point and say, "well, we do need this," but there is no sense of urgency to that need.

Performance happens when pressure is applied. Some societies have instilled within themselves a constant pressure, and apparently progress at a faster rate than others. I imagine that the lack of urgency and impending need is what negates motivation. It doesn't seem like this applies only to scientific research, either.

Re:US science is dying? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23119600)

The main reason this research is being done in China is the fact that one has to work with Arsenic compounds. The US has more regulations regarding strongly poisonous elements.

Re:US science is dying? (1)

Guppy (12314) | more than 6 years ago | (#23124130)

From Nature News:

Interest was rekindled two years ago when researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology synthesized a new superconductor based on iron rather than copper. The material also featured oxygen, lanthanum and phosphorus, but its transition temperature was just 4 degrees above absolute zero, no better than the very first superconductor discovered a century before.

Then this February, the same group announced an exciting development. The researchers had replaced phosphorus with another pnicogen, arsenic, in the layered material and - boom - the transition temperature shot up to 26 K (Y. Kamihara et al. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 130, 3296â"3297; 2008). Subsequent tweaking has already boosted that temperature above 50 K. âoeWe all were surprised,â says materials scientist Hideo Hosono, who led the study.
It would seem that this research is coming out of Japan, not China.

If He knows... (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23118516)

Why didn't he add a chapter about it in his book? Seems that the Bible is awefully biased towards the early medieval period, we in the future have to fend for ourselves without any help.

Re:If He knows... (2, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#23119248)

Yeah, how are we going to 'fend for ourselves' without superconductors? :O

Twofo Goatse (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23118530)

Eat my goatse'd penis! [twofo.co.uk] [goatse.ch]

You nerds love it.

Background Information (3, Informative)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#23118582)

Here (PDF warning) [uni-augsburg.de] is an in depth look at high temperature superconductors, especially the cuprate families, for those not well versed in the subject.

Close, but no cigar yet. (0, Redundant)

Black-Six (989784) | more than 6 years ago | (#23118600)

"High Temperature"? I wouldn't call 55K a very warm temp at all. Although, this is a significant break through in getting a material closer to "at room temp" superconducting. They need to get to the range of 273-310K before it will be of widespread feasibility to use. However, a 55K superconductor would be useful in several spaceflight applications. This might lead to the development of a new propulsion system or much more powerful ion drives.

Re:Close, but no cigar yet. (2, Insightful)

Artuir (1226648) | more than 6 years ago | (#23118718)

This is assuming standard pressure, of course. Any advancement in the operating temperature of a superconductor would make it easier to pressurize a system in order to bring its operating temperature up.

Re:Close, but no cigar yet. (1)

What Would NPH Do (1274934) | more than 6 years ago | (#23119266)

"High Temperature"? I wouldn't call 55K a very warm temp at all.
With relation to superconductors it would be. They aren't saying this would be a high temperature as a climate for humans.

Re:Close, but no cigar yet. (1)

Molochi (555357) | more than 6 years ago | (#23119390)

I've always been under the impression that a major reason for superconductor research was to raise the operating temperature to a point where parity (or better) was reached between maintaining a magnetic bottle and the energy gained by a contained hydrogen fusion reaction. I'm guessing that the lack of posts stating "Mr Fusion to be trial-ed this fall" means that liquid nitrogen is too energy-expensive to make this a reality.

Hope it fits in a bedroom (2, Funny)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 6 years ago | (#23118760)

as well as paving the way for practical magnetic levitation

Awesome! Can't wait for my superconductor magnetic levitation bed!

Re:Hope it fits in a bedroom (2, Funny)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 6 years ago | (#23118838)

"...in an iron-and-arsenic compound..."

You might not wake up from that bed...lol

Re:Hope it fits in a bedroom (2, Interesting)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#23119644)

You can levitate frogs and such by themselves, without having to support them on a levitating magnet -- see the Youtube video [youtube.com] . Of course, that technique doesn't work with superconductors -- the field strength required is higher than they can sustain. Instead, you need a 6 megawatt electromagnet [hfml.ru.nl] .

I suppose 6 MW to levitate a frog is about as impractical as it gets...

Re:Hope it fits in a bedroom (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 6 years ago | (#23120424)

i wonder, how does the magnetic field needed scale with the mass to be levitated?

Now I can finish my stargate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23119888)

Once the superconductor gets rolling, the wormhole will be stable.

Is this really news? (1)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | more than 6 years ago | (#23118800)

Didn't we just see a far warmer superconductor just a little while ago? [slashdot.org]

Not to mention this one [slashdot.org] operating at 200 kelvin.

I feel kind of bad for these guys doing their research and coming in 150 kelvin behind everyone else.

Re:Is this really news? (4, Insightful)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 6 years ago | (#23118980)

It is news not because of any new temperature records, but because of the fact that these are the first superconductors outside of the cuprate family to exhibit high critical temperatures.

This is an entirely new family from the cuprates. The cuprates started much lower too. Also, even if this family never compares to the cuprates in performance, the behavior of this new family could shed light on the (relatively unknown) mechanisms of cuprate superconductivity, allowing for that family to be developed further.

Re:Is this really news? (1)

What Would NPH Do (1274934) | more than 6 years ago | (#23119316)

Did you even bother to even read the summary? The discovery isn't because they are surpassing some sort of high temperature for superconductors. It's because they've discovered NEW compounds that can be used as superconductors which can help scientists in improving the theoretical models behind how superconducting works.

Levitation (3, Funny)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 6 years ago | (#23118860)

as well as paving the way for practical magnetic levitation
Just let me know when I don't need to have my feet frozen to my hoverboard to make it work.

Re:Levitation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23119116)

Just remember, they don't work on water. Everyone knows that.

Re:Levitation (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 6 years ago | (#23120014)

Just remember, they don't work on water. Everyone knows that.
Unless you've got power, or a tow.

John (1)

jab9990 (1260764) | more than 6 years ago | (#23119176)

And we all know that communists never lie.

Re:John (1)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 6 years ago | (#23119746)

And we know democracies never lie either. What's your point?

What about 200 K? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23119370)

Mind you i didn't RTFA, but how is this better than the article last week about a aluminum alloy that operates at 200 Kelvin.

Re:What about 200 K? (1)

What Would NPH Do (1274934) | more than 6 years ago | (#23119434)

Since you seem to be too lazy to even read teh summary I'll quote the relevant section for you:

are hailing the discovery of a new type of superconductor as a "major advance." The new materials could solve the biggest mystery in condensed matter physics -- i.e., how and why cuprate superconductors work

Re:What about 200 K? (1)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 6 years ago | (#23119938)

Because that was nanoparticles (~40 atoms each), not a solid material. Even if the electrical resistance within the particle was perfect, the resistance from one particle to the next could not be guaranteed.

Last month some team in Germany discovered a "room temperature" superconductor. That's still not terribly useful, though, unless you can build a wire that is safely under almost 4000 atmospheres of pressure required to turn the Silane gas into a solid.
=Smidge=

I sense some new pick-up lines on the horizon... (1)

Last_Available_Usern (756093) | more than 6 years ago | (#23119426)

Damn girl, you look hot enough to transmit energy in a lossless....hey, where are you going?

Superconducting Supercomputers? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#23119488)

Are these "not so low" temperature superconductors usable to make semiconductors for computers? Can such a superconducting computer be run at extremely high clock rates, or just extremely low circuit latency, to make really fast computers not limited by the heat inefficiencies of today's regular computer chemistry?

If so, how about building these computers buried in Antarctic ice? Winter air temperature drops to -80C; deep in the ice it's probably even lower. 138K is -211C. So the energy required to cool the superconductors would be much lower than in the usual labs, which start at about 24C - over 100K more than the 120K difference between the superconducting point and the natural arctic temperatures Cooling -80C to -211C should be a lot cheaper and easier than cooling 24C to -211C (though shlepping to the poles and digging isn't so easy or cheap).

The problem is what to do with the heat pumped out, which could damage the arctic nearby, maybe even melt the foundation. But if the total mass cooled is small (like a few dozen microchips), that byproduct heat could be used to keep some human operators alive.

If the arctic is the wrong location, how about launching them into orbit, behind a solar panel shield that powers the device (and its I/O radio) and shadows its temperature into the operating range?

Re:Superconducting Supercomputers? (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#23120344)

I am waiting with interest for an informed response to your question. But my guess is that a superconductor is only half of a supersemiconductor, which is the name I just made up for something that's instantly switchable from 0 to infinite resistance. And since infinite resistance is impossible, I would guess there will still be some current leaking through any real semiconductor, and thus waste heat. Besides the direct loss of this heat, it would make it harder to keep the superconducting parts cold enough.

Re:Superconducting Supercomputers? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#23122924)

While we both wait for someone informed to explain how we can or cannot currently fashion superconducting materials into transistors, we can speculated from an informed theoretical perspective :).

The answer to the problem you pose (other than how the device's physical chemistry actually makes a supersemiconductor) is just to cool the part that much lower than its superconducting point. The energy is still lost to the extra heat from imperfect resistance, and multiplied by the energy consumed in recooling the heated material. But at the extra energy cost, the material should still stay colder than the superconducting point, and continue to work. Superconduction is a nonlinear system, so we can win by getting below the threshold even though it continues to cost us to stay there.

I also note that infinite resistance is indeed physically possible, by introducing a vacuum. If these "supertransistors" are low voltage enough (which superconductors should make easy), small enough, perhaps a micromechanical (and nanovoltage) supertransistor could physically move between superconductor contact and vacuum insulator, depending on whether some electrons are sitting on its base/gate lead. There's a lot of engineering (and probably some science, too) before such a device could work. But we make do with less than perfect conventional transistors with conventional conductors and semiconductors, and still get well-formed 1s and 0s out of them (to which your reading this post attests :).

Re:Superconducting Supercomputers? (2, Insightful)

Jerf (17166) | more than 6 years ago | (#23120414)

The problem is what to do with the heat pumped out, which could damage the arctic nearby, maybe even melt the foundation. But if the total mass cooled is small (like a few dozen microchips), that byproduct heat could be used to keep some human operators alive.
Scale, scale, scale, scale, scale. Don't let environmentalist mottos fool you; humans aren't actually "heating" the planet. By pumping large amounts of a greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, we are causing the planet to retain more heat. (This isn't news to environmentalists, which is why I explicitly point out that the mottos are wrong. Things tend to get simplified in their trip into the collective consciousness.)

We're nowhere near being able to actually heat the planet to any significant degree. Run the computations on how much energy the planet receives from the Sun every day, compare with the total energy generated by humanity in a day.

You don't need to worry about "damaging" the Antarctic by running some computers and dumping the heat out into the local environment. Heat just dissipates, and since it's at a rate proportional to the difference between the temperatures, it goes away faster the more you try. (That's the fundamental reason why we can't directly heat the planet, because even if we did, it would just radiate away.) You need to worry about the stuff that doesn't dissipate.

Re:Superconducting Supercomputers? (2, Informative)

FailedTheTuringTest (937776) | more than 6 years ago | (#23121352)

The poster was talking about local heating effects, not global, and while you're right that a few computers won't create a heat island and change the local ecology, there is one sort of local effect that is quite real and well-known all across the Arctic. Any warm structure will heat the ground it is built on slightly, and in the high Arctic where permafrost [wikipedia.org] exists, anything you build (including all buildings and pipelines) has to take this into account or the permafrost melts and the structure sinks. The problem is usually solved by building on piles, or on really thick and heavily insulated foundations (sometimes with heat pipes). I presume the same goes for Antarctic research stations, except of course where a solid-rock site is available.

Re:Superconducting Supercomputers? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#23122772)

As the other reply to your message [slashdot.org] said, I'm not talking about upsetting the ecosystem in the arctic. I'm talking about melting the ice supporting the delicate machinery.

FWIW, the "environmentalist mottoes" are just fine. We are heating the planet, by stopping its natural cooling radiation with our thickened Greenhouse atmosphere. The same way I "warm up" by putting on a coat, even if the coat isn't that warm to start with. In fact we can directly heat the planet, and of course we do, though the effects of extra insulation increasing our retention of all the vast incoming sunlight are greater than the effects of the extra heat we're insulating.

You're also not really right about the damage that the local heating can do. Of course all heating is "heat dissipation": that's simple thermodynamics, so all heating of any kind is just moving energy from one place to another, not "creating" it. Powering equipment in a sensitive frozen place that's already hovering near a tipping point can cause a lot more damage than you imply. All the phenomena we're talking about are nonlinear phase changes (even the superconducting, for thematic consistency). Some ice might be safely stuck in one attractor cycle, never rising above melting, but coming very close. Then the extra heat puts it over the edge, which melts water down through moulins, which lubricates the underside of the glacier, which lets gravity pull it faster and harder against the rock it sits on, which helps melt it more, also perhaps sliding it into nearby warmer water it used to sit away from. A little new energy in the wrong place can reorganize the energy of an entire large mass system. By the time that butterfly's wings are fully flapping, several tipping points can be crossed, amplifying the results and finding new, higher energy states in which to cycle around.

I'm not saying that "want of a nail the kingdom was lost" scenario is likely. But it is how things work, not the linear illusion that we'd like to stay used to. These environments are complex, and not at all well understood, especially their catastrophic failures and how to tell when they're close. I don't think that enough heat to keep a handful of operators alive year round would be a problem if it's designed properly and some warning signals (and mitigation reactions) are identified, but ignoring the problem doesn't make it go away.

Re:Superconducting Supercomputers? (1)

ispeters (621097) | more than 6 years ago | (#23120678)

I don't really have a lot to say, but you made one error. Zero degrees C is 273K, so 138K is actually -135 degrees C, not -211.

Ian

Re:Superconducting Supercomputers? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#23122604)

You're right, 138K == -135C [google.com] , thanks.

Which means that the ice, even if it's only -80C, is only 55C hotter than the -135C superconducting point. Unlike the usual labs, which at about 24C (I doublechecked [google.com] ;) are 159C hotter. An even better case for arctic super(conducting computers).

How does this help my Ubuntu? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23119742)

Here in the midwest super conductivity is a non-starter unless it happens at a temperature > Colder-than-a-witch's-tit.

Call me then

Double Standard Standard (0)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 6 years ago | (#23119864)

> physicists are hailing the discovery of a new
> type of superconductor...
> as well as paving the way for practical magnetic
> levitation and lossless transmission of energy.

Lossless transmission = 0 entropy

0 entropy (Isolated system? Transmission line, check. Not in equilibrium? Voltage gradient, check) = violation of the second law of thermodynamics: "The entropy of an isolated system not in equilibrium will tend to increase over time, approaching a maximum value at equilibrium."

When others make claims of 0 entropy processes, they call it perpetual motion and dismiss the claimant as a crackpot. When physicists make the claim, they swoon like Victorian maidens and even get a Nobelist to stand on a chair wearing a lampshade. Perhaps they never meant it couldn't be done, it's just that they wanted to do it first.

I'm not saying they're wrong, about either the claim itself or to have this double standard. I find the latter to be a great example of science being done by humans instead of by the coldly objective scientists, following the 3 laws of reality robot-like, that people tend to imagine. The Golem marches on: http://books.google.com/books?id=t5wovH0l-bcC&dq=the+golem+science&pg=PP1&ots=9lGbEqBija&source=citation&sig=lV_sc9xnFKBjCZi6bIKMb-LdewU&hl=en&prev=http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&rls=GGGL,GGGL:2006-18,GGGL:en&q=the+golem+science&btnG=Search&sa=X&oi=print&ct=result&cd=1&cad=bottom-3results [google.com]

Re:Double Standard Standard (1)

nmos (25822) | more than 6 years ago | (#23120508)

In fairness most proposals for perpetual motion machines (actually all that I've seen) actually claim decreasing entropy, not just zero change. IANAP but I do wonder if superconductivity will turn out not to be completely lossless but just very very nearly lossless. Of course, in practice we're not talking about closed systems anyway.

Re:Double Standard Standard (1)

exploder (196936) | more than 6 years ago | (#23120564)

Are you sure there is a voltage gradient across a superconducting transmission line?

Re:Double Standard Standard (1)

Planx_Constant (594897) | more than 6 years ago | (#23121668)

If you have a transmission line, you have an input and an output, and so you do not have an isolated system. There is not a voltage gradient within a superconducting transmission line (simplistically, V = IR = 0, since R=0), even if you have one at terminals on either end. In fact, measure the voltage at points on a copper wire in a circuit, and you can see that the voltage gradient within the wire is (practically) zero. You can have an apparent violation of entropy pretty easily, if you define your "isolated system" sloppily enough. Just put low pressure on a container of water. The water will gradually decrease in temperature, as the boundary of the water acts like Maxwell's demon, and your container looks like it's violating entropy. The entropy of the universe is still, however, increasing. The difference in superconductivity research and perpetual motion "research" is that superconductivity is reproducible, and superconductivity researchers are happy to disclose their methods, and actively look for a well-defined explanation of the behavior.

Wrong Icon (1)

fetusbear (711223) | more than 6 years ago | (#23120562)

Has anyone noticed the disconnect between this topic (superconducting) and the icon (supercomputing) Slashdot is using to summarize this topic? I know they both have the word "super"... and a "c". But the similarities end there.

Supercomputing is all about massively parallel computation, not just computers... nor chips. This article is about condensed matter physics and (who knows?) a possible replacement for the semiconductor.

Got a semiconductor icon, perhaps?

Meissner effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23120708)

Could have used this in the lab report I turned in today. Now all we need is cheap/good electronic paper so I could have included this too: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Flyingsuperconductor.ogg

Your Idea/My Idea (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 6 years ago | (#23122732)

Your idea of what constitutes "high temperature" and my idea of what constitutes "high temperature" are radically different. Until it runs in my house wiring it really isn't going to impact me any time soon.

Interesting term "firestorm" to describe the interest in this discovery. One is left thinking that the intense firestorm has resulted in pushing temperatures so high that all the superconducting stopped right there.

Distributed computing (1)

BigBadBus (653823) | more than 6 years ago | (#23123200)

It is a shame that more theoretical progress hasn't been made on high Tc superconductors. This would be a project ripe for distributed computing.

Be More Specific... (1)

Fysiks Wurks (949375) | more than 6 years ago | (#23125044)

"Several Chinese research groups quickly found related materials...."

Were those Chinese researh groups at US univeristies or actually in China?
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