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Europium's Superconductivity Demonstrated

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the great-new-taste dept.

Power 103

gabrlknght writes "An old element just learned a new trick under pressure. When cooled and squeezed very hard, the soft metallic element europium turns into a superconductor, allowing electrons to flow unfettered by resistance, a study appearing May 13 in Physical Review Letters shows. The results make europium the 53rd of the 92 naturally occurring elements to possess superconductivity, which, if harnessed, could make for more efficient energy transfer."

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First post (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28034541)

:)

Re:First post (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28034901)

What I don't understand is how does any new discovery almost ALWAYS turn out better than anything that is currently known or in use? Its uncanny.

Re:First post (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28034927)

Its uncanny.

Maybe you should just put it back in the can then, eh?

Re:First post (3, Insightful)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 5 years ago | (#28035113)

Simple; because the only new discoveries you HEAR about are the ones that are (at least potentially) better than what we already have.

There are new, mediocre discoveries every day but they're never heard about except in some dusty journal.

Re:First post (1)

Will.Woodhull (1038600) | more than 5 years ago | (#28038663)

There are new, mediocre discoveries every day but they're never heard about except in some dusty journal.

That's unfair!

Not every journal published by Elsevier [newsinferno.com] is dusty. Some, like the famous Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine, are bright, shiny things...

...oooh! Shiny...

Re:First post -- dead wrong (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28041147)

Sorry, but I bet a lot of other scientists, perhaps a few on this board, are getting sick of science hype, and discoveries that "if" we can really do this, and then "if" we can also do that (no clue how to do that) and a few other ifs, we can change the world in only 5 more years.

Every minor discovery, or in a lot of cases, rediscovery by those who didn't do their homework is endlessly touted as the great new thing, especially in nanotech, but in other fields as well. A recent example is the "discovery" or first "plasma transistor". Too bad for MIT that this was tried and in use by Phillips in the early 50's if not before as a possible low voltage tube for car radios.

Marketing has become more important to an overspecialized science than the science.
The only reason to read the hyped blogs is to find things people have "discovered" but due to overspecialization, don't know what they have.
But they know what they want! More money and time until tenure kicks in, work on the fun stuff with a cute secretary and so on. How many times in a row has fusion been only a couple decades away, and just this one more doubling of money?

I still want my flying car, and fusion and so on.
Looks like the best way is to get rich and fund these on your own, you might get results if you fired the losers.

It isn't better (5, Informative)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 5 years ago | (#28035411)

This is not a high temperature superconductor. It only superconducts under 2 degrees K, when compressed to an extreme degree. It is of academic interest only.

Re:It isn't better (5, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#28035813)

One of the scientists in the article had a quote that I think is worth reproducing:

"Superconductivity is an area where it's very difficult theoretically to have the last word, to really know what's possible and what's not.... Anything one can do to further the understanding of superconductivity might eventually help one design a better superconductor."

In essence we don't know what superconductors can do, but if we try different stuff eventually we will find something useful. That's why it's worth doing.

Re:It isn't better (1)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 5 years ago | (#28041087)

In essence we don't know what superconductors can do, but if we try different stuff eventually we will find something useful. That's why it's worth doing.

Not quite. We know what superconductors are, what they do, and how they can be used. We have many incredible uses for a superconductor, with the most obvious being levitating magnets and zero-loss power transmission. What we don't know is why certain metals under certain conditions become superconductors. Once we know that, we can start to design usable (higher temperature, lower pressure) superconductors, rather than simply stumbling across them ocassionally at

Basically, we need to do all this research on the totally impractical superconductors so that we can learn how to engineer practical superconductors.

Re:It isn't better (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#28042751)

You don't think there are any uses that haven't been imagined? Or any properties that haven't been discovered? Or any uses that might be discovered once cheap superconductors are plentifully available?

happened with other SCs as well (3, Informative)

gcnaddict (841664) | more than 5 years ago | (#28034549)

The Carnegie Institution for Science published something like this [ciw.edu] exactly one year ago today.

Granted, it doesn't mention Europium, but the same principle applies.

Re:happened with other SCs as well (3, Insightful)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 5 years ago | (#28034585)

The only difference between the last 20 or so elements is the later ones are not quite so ridiculously cold. Eventually we may get to just unbelievably cold!

Re:happened with other SCs as well (4, Funny)

Inverted Intellect (950622) | more than 5 years ago | (#28034881)

Your temperature scale is clearly incorrect.

As it regards cold, it goes from Chilly, to Cold, to Freezing, eventually reaching Ridiculously Cold, Unbelievably Cold and Impossibly Cold.

oh wait, are you using the imperial system of verbal measurement? Never mind.

Re:happened with other SCs as well (4, Funny)

corbettw (214229) | more than 5 years ago | (#28035249)

Wake me when someone reaches Plaid Cold.

Re:happened with other SCs as well (1)

Dean Edmonds (189342) | more than 5 years ago | (#28035749)

Doubtless that will be the case with the element plaidinum.

Re:happened with other SCs as well (3, Funny)

selven (1556643) | more than 5 years ago | (#28037139)

Ludicrous Cold... GO!

Re:happened with other SCs as well (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 5 years ago | (#28035515)

....and you still wouldn't be near a superconductor. Even the best "high-temperature" superconductors are below the coldest of cold we've measured naturally, even the people on antarctic science stations - not that I think they'd be outside in -90C/-130F anyway. What they're good for now is neat and all but if we could find a room temperature superconductor it'd be a revolution.

Re:happened with other SCs as well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28035605)

Hell, if you got a freezer temperature (even LN2 would be big news) METALLIC superconductor, you would have a revolution.

Re:happened with other SCs as well (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28035745)

....and you still wouldn't be near a superconductor. Even the best "high-temperature" superconductors are below the coldest of cold we've measured naturally

How about the surface of Titan. Isn't that "measured naturally"?

Re:happened with other SCs as well (4, Funny)

Hucko (998827) | more than 5 years ago | (#28036317)

oh noooo. That was measured with lasers!

Re:happened with other SCs as well (5, Funny)

x2A (858210) | more than 5 years ago | (#28036705)

Please no jokes about sticking a thermometer up Uranus.

Re:happened with other SCs as well (2, Funny)

sjames (1099) | more than 5 years ago | (#28035661)

You forgot Brrrrrrrr, the temperature at which animated characters freeze instantly. Sometimes they shatter or break into ice cubes of course.

Re:happened with other SCs as well (4, Funny)

Dr Caleb (121505) | more than 5 years ago | (#28035775)

> As it regards cold, it goes from Chilly, to Cold, to Freezing, eventually reaching Ridiculously Cold, Unbelievably Cold and Impossibly Cold.

I'm Canadian you insensitive clod. I'd still be in shorts and a t-shirt.

Re:happened with other SCs as well (1)

Gerafix (1028986) | more than 5 years ago | (#28039465)

Shorts and a t-shirt? Lucky bastard. Back in my day we only had a single thread of hemp to cover ourselves while we were seal clubbing.

Re:happened with other SCs as well (3, Funny)

Lucractius (649116) | more than 5 years ago | (#28036125)

In certain circles where greater accuracy is required its common to use a finer precision in the jump from Freezing to Ridiculously Cold.

This is done by having Bloody Freezing and F*****ing Freezing as additional points on the scale.

Fuzzy math... (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 5 years ago | (#28034557)

"When cooled and squeezed very hard, the soft metallic element europium turns into a superconductor ... which, if harnessed, could make for more efficient energy transfer."

After factoring in the cost of compressing and cooling a big long cable... In other words, not any time soon.

Re:Fuzzy math... (2, Insightful)

craklyn (1533019) | more than 5 years ago | (#28034825)

"When cooled and squeezed very hard, the soft metallic element europium turns into a superconductor ... which, if harnessed, could make for more efficient energy transfer." After factoring in the cost of compressing and cooling a big long cable... In other words, not any time soon.

Superconductivity can be harnessed for efficient energy transfer. It's a boilerplate that is attached to any research associated with superconductivity to remind the general public whe they're spending millions of dollars on things which aren't available as direct dividends to their lives.

Re:Fuzzy math... (4, Funny)

swb (14022) | more than 5 years ago | (#28035003)

I figure the real benefit from research isn't the discoveries, its the economic benefit of decent, well-paying jobs in a pleasant park-like campus.

Re:Fuzzy math... (2, Insightful)

bh_doc (930270) | more than 5 years ago | (#28035261)

One could've said similar things about semiconductors.

Re:Fuzzy math... (1)

gadget junkie (618542) | more than 5 years ago | (#28037107)

"When cooled and squeezed very hard, the soft metallic element europium turns into a superconductor ... which, if harnessed, could make for more efficient energy transfer." After factoring in the cost of compressing and cooling a big long cable... In other words, not any time soon.

Superconductivity can be harnessed for efficient energy transfer. It's a boilerplate that is attached to any research associated with superconductivity to remind the general public whe they're spending millions of dollars on things which aren't available as direct dividends to their lives.

....hmmmmm, let's see: do you have gym shoes with velcro closure? that was an invention for the apollo program, to avoid having things fly in the capsule. I expect someone at the time said the same thing: "what's the use of sending people to the moon anyway?"
As to High temperature superconducting, [wikipedia.org] the key temperature is the boiling point ofliquid nitrogen, which is relatively cheap and inert. AFAIK, superconducting power cables are in use now. [amsc.com]

Re:Fuzzy math... (1)

daveime (1253762) | more than 5 years ago | (#28036367)

After factoring in the cost of compressing and cooling a big long cable... In other words, not any time soon

Well considering the current "system loss" (generation and transmission losses) is between 25 and 30%, all a superconductor would have to do is consume *less* than that percentage to be more efficient.

Now we've heard a lot about superconductors, but what if there is a potential for super-insulators, i.e. materials with the property not to conduct *any* electrons, EM radiation or heat in any form.

Cool your superconductor to the required temperature, compress it to the required level, then constrain it within a super-insulator. Problem solved.

Yes, yes, very simplistic I know, but then considering the tech leaps we've made in even 50 years, not outside the realms of possibility ?

Re:Fuzzy math... (2, Insightful)

asdf7890 (1518587) | more than 5 years ago | (#28036961)

i.e. materials with the property not to conduct *any* electrons, EM radiation or heat in any form.

I think the law of thermodynamics might have a thing or two to say on the subject of that idea.

Re:Fuzzy math... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28036835)

800,000 BAR (~14.5 PSI) = 11,600,000 PSI.

There shouldn't be any problem finding a compressor capable of such pressures used on ebay.

Jew penis (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28034575)

You suck jew penis [youporn.com]

Re:Jew penis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28035765)

I didn't know AC was jewish!

Actually that page gets more hits for arab.

When squeezed, europium gives up resistance? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28034613)

What, is it French?

Re:When squeezed, europium gives up resistance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28035347)

No, it's Crystal Palin!

Re:When squeezed, europium gives up resistance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28036305)

Hence the name; Europium.

Re:When squeezed, europium gives up resistance? (1)

jabithew (1340853) | more than 5 years ago | (#28037553)

Last time I checked somethink like 88% of we Europeans weren't French.

Re:When squeezed, europium gives up resistance? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 5 years ago | (#28043245)

Bah, europium proudly shows off its superconductive superpowers while americium knows no better than to silently fall apart in the corner. Take it, americium! We'll kick your ass any day!

80 GPa (4, Funny)

quenda (644621) | more than 5 years ago | (#28034653)

80 giga-pascals of pressure? Could be useful for deep-sea power transmission. You only need to go 8000km deep to get that pressure naturally.

Re:80 GPa (5, Funny)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 5 years ago | (#28034697)

That would be about 1620km past the center of the earth...

rj

Re:80 GPa (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28034711)

Even better. If you went at it from the other side you'd only have to go down 6380km, much easier.

Re:80 GPa (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28034785)

That would be about 1620km past the center of the earth...

I hear the 2.0 is a lot bigger. It's also only 6000 years old, and never ages any further.

Re:80 GPa (1)

Kuroji (990107) | more than 5 years ago | (#28037897)

What's funny about being told that the world is millions of years old when in fact it's only a hundred and fifty-seven years old -- fact! -- and its age does not change?

Re:80 GPa (2, Funny)

schon (31600) | more than 5 years ago | (#28034903)

Maybe OP is talking about after we've colonized Jupiter? :)

Re:80 GPa (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#28034959)

The deepest part of the ocean is about 9.7 km, has pressure of about 110-mega-pascals, and a temperature of about 2 degrees Celsius. So you're off by about 3 orders of magnitude in every measurement :)

Re:80 GPa (3, Funny)

physicsphairy (720718) | more than 5 years ago | (#28035149)

What's a few orders of magnitude between friends?

Re:80 GPa (2, Funny)

corbettw (214229) | more than 5 years ago | (#28035301)

You sound like a Congressman discussing the budget.

Re:80 GPa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28035327)

He might be an astronomer.

Re:80 GPa (1)

pbhj (607776) | more than 5 years ago | (#28037433)

What's a few orders of magnitude between friends?

You sound like a Congressman discussing the budget.

or an MP discussing their expenses claim ...

Re:80 GPa (1)

x2A (858210) | more than 5 years ago | (#28036733)

...and the barman says "I'm sorry, we've run out of magnitudes"...

(yeah I'm tired... consider this beginnings of a joke gpl'd, patches welcome)

Re:80 GPa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28037013)

But 3 is a small number, so I bet it's nothing a bit of hard work can't solve!

When cooled and squeezed very hard... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28034687)

...the otherwise metallic element Nancy Peolsi turns into a super-lier, allowing falsehood to flow unfettered by resistance.

(In regards to her statements she didn't know waterboarding was torture, mislead by CIA etc.)

Re:When cooled and squeezed very hard... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28037309)

Moderator abuse! Moderator abuse! That's off-topic not flame bait.

Element Abuse (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28034755)

"An old element just learned a new trick under pressure"

This is an example of Element abuse! An OLD element, FORCED to learn a new trick, UNDER PRESSURE no doubt!

Stop the madness, leave the poor elements alone, especially the old ones.

Re:Element Abuse (2, Funny)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 5 years ago | (#28037733)

if they become superconducting when under pressure... just wait till they start waterboarding them...

Re:Element Abuse (1)

tim_darklighter (822987) | more than 5 years ago | (#28045095)

"At twenty-five atmospheres, calling it an ideal gas is kind of an insult."

(From my undergraduate physical chemistry prof)

Extreme Hazard (3, Funny)

thethibs (882667) | more than 5 years ago | (#28034763)

We must make sure that no one ever mixes europium with administerium. An EU "unfettered by resistance" could set civilization back a thousand years.

Re:Extreme Hazard (1)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 5 years ago | (#28036837)

On the other hand, it might teach the pesky Americum [wikipedia.org] and the Americum based chemistry to obey the laws. That'd push civilization forward a thousand and one years.

Re:Extreme Hazard (0, Troll)

speedtux (1307149) | more than 5 years ago | (#28037787)

Unlike Europium, Americium is unstable and doesn't last very long.

is it just me (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28034779)

or does slashdot's new comment system such major asshole?

Re:is it just me (1)

daveime (1253762) | more than 5 years ago | (#28036397)

It just you, Sergeant Detritus.

Cool. Where's my Europium mine? (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 5 years ago | (#28034793)

We'll need billions of tons of the stuff to replace the present wiring infrastructure. OH? No billions of tons of Europium? Dang. foiled again.

RS

Re:Cool. Where's my Europium mine? (2, Informative)

MadCow42 (243108) | more than 5 years ago | (#28035125)

>> We'll need billions of tons of the stuff to replace the present wiring infrastructure

Actually, no. To replace a 1cm thick copper cable you do NOT need a 1cm thick superconductor. I'm sure there's limits, but because there's no electrical resistance you can carry HUGE currents through tiny superconductors. We're talking several orders of magnitude difference here.

Anyone have a real numerical comparison handy?

MadCow

Re:Cool. Where's my Europium mine? (2, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28035599)

Surpsingly [imagesco.com] complicated [open.ac.uk] , couldn't find any simple practical answers. Sorry. I did find some nifty pictures [aip.org] though.

Not cost effective. (1)

wfstanle (1188751) | more than 5 years ago | (#28039933)

The point is that even if large quantities of electricity could be transmitted, we still would need large amounts of Europium. There simply isn't enough to use in transmission cables. I don't have figures on how rare it is but it is one of the "rare earth minerals". That should give you a clue. Even if enough could be obtained, what is the cost to mine enough. It doesn't sound very cost effective to me.

Re:Not cost effective. (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 5 years ago | (#28041375)

"Rare Earth" is a misnomer, and very very old terminology. Lanthanoids [wikipedia.org] are actually very common. Cerium is even the 26th most abundant element in the earth's crust (higher than gold, and we use a LOT of gold). Europium is used as a red phosphor in old TV sets and flourescent lamps.

These elements are in fact fairly abundant in nature, although rare as compared to the "common" earths such as lime or magnesia.

You realize lime is so abundant we use it in concrete, right? "Rare earths" are only rare in relation to extremely common elements. You could say they are on the rare side of common, if you like.

Gee... (3, Interesting)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 5 years ago | (#28034795)

Gee...I got all excited there for a moment. Until I read:

  "The results make europium the 53rd of the 92 naturally occurring elements to possess superconductivity"

If the gnomes haven't figured out how to "harness" the magic contained in the OTHER 92 elements that super-conduct, why would this one be any different?

Re:Gee... (2, Informative)

powerslave12r (1389937) | more than 5 years ago | (#28034929)

Only 53 of the 92 naturally occurring elements have super-conductivity, not all 92.

Re:Gee... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28034993)

Thats over NINE THOUSAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAND!!!!!! 18,000ths...

PS Filter error: Don't use so many caps. It's like YELLING.

Re:Gee... (1)

dinsdale3 (579466) | more than 5 years ago | (#28035209)

I think you meant the other 52 that superconduct, not 92.

Re:Gee... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28038303)

Only 52 others are known to superconduct. The 92 refers to the total number of naturally occurring elements.

  -AC

Rare Earth Metals (3, Interesting)

lobiusmoop (305328) | more than 5 years ago | (#28034839)

I was quite surprised to read in Wikipedia that the rare earth metals are neither rare nor 'earths' [wikipedia.org] in reality.

All these elements (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28034973)

All these elements are yours except Europium. Attempt no superconducting there.

Re:All these elements (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28035669)

I shake my tiny, anonymous fist at you!

(Good job.)

how much energy was used? (1)

DragonTHC (208439) | more than 5 years ago | (#28035029)

Just how much energy was used in making the europium more efficient at energy transfer?

The proverbial chicken and egg and perpetual motion machines called, they want their gimmick back.

Re:how much energy was used? (1)

ral8158 (947954) | more than 5 years ago | (#28035377)

*woosh* that's the sound of it going over your head.

Re:how much energy was used? (1)

DragonTHC (208439) | more than 5 years ago | (#28043515)

nope, looks like you can't read.

When cooled and squeezed very hard

cooling and squeezing both take tremendous energy. How much energy? Is it worth the trade-off for the increased efficiency?

answer those questions instead of insulting.

I always knew it (5, Funny)

keeboo (724305) | more than 5 years ago | (#28035217)

Take that, Americium!

Re:I always knew it (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28035409)

The metal americium becomes superconducting at temperatures as high as 0.79 K ...
Submitted on February 13, 1978

Superconductivity of Americium [sciencemag.org]

Re:I always knew it (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28035869)

Take that, Americium!

Governor Schwartz, when asked for comment said "Youu continant sizzed eloments think you're all thaat? Califooornia is just one state and we haf an eloment named after ous"

Re:I always knew it (1)

EsbenMoseHansen (731150) | more than 5 years ago | (#28036341)

Take that, Americium!

Governor Schwartz, when asked for comment said "Youu continant sizzed eloments think you're all thaat? Califooornia is just one state and we haf an eloment named after ous"

You should have tried someone from Copenhagen.... they have Hafnium, and they are just a city. Don't know any toughies from there, though ;)

Re:I always knew it (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28036431)

You should have tried someone from Copenhagen.... they have Hafnium, and they are just a city. Don't know any toughies from there, though ;)

Yes, but they don't have a T-1000 running the place!

Re:I always knew it (2, Informative)

Svartormr (692822) | more than 5 years ago | (#28036787)

T-1000?!? Damn, we'd put a T-800 in there and now Skynet's gone and substituted our substitute!

Re:I always knew it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28039071)

... sigh

T-800

why do I feel the need to correct this.

Re:I always knew it (2, Interesting)

myrrdyn (562078) | more than 5 years ago | (#28037295)

Take that, Americium!

Governor Schwartz, when asked for comment said "Youu continant sizzed eloments think you're all thaat? Califooornia is just one state and we haf an eloment named after ous"

You should have tried someone from Copenhagen.... they have Hafnium, and they are just a city. Don't know any toughies from there, though ;)

Think of Ytterby, Sweden. A village with 3 (three!!!) elements named from it: terbium, erbium and ytterbium ( see here [wikipedia.org] )

Think of Ytterby (2, Interesting)

myrrdyn (562078) | more than 5 years ago | (#28037305)

Think of Ytterby, Sweden. A village with 3 (three!!!) elements named from it: terbium, erbium and ytterbium ( see here [wikipedia.org] )

Ops, I forgot some more [wikipedia.org] ... It seems that Ytterby originated 4-8 names...

Re:Think of Ytterby (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 5 years ago | (#28038613)

Yeah, well, the Curies were just two people, and Einstein was just one!

Re:I always knew it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28038113)

A unique, heartfelt message of love goes out to Scandium, who could not be here today, due to misconduct.

Obligatory. (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28035349)

All these superconductors are yours, except Europium. Attempt no experiments there.

WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28035511)

My old element just learned a new trick under pressure. When rubbed and squeezed very hard, the soft flaccid element turns into a hard superconductor, allowing my little electrons to flow unfettered by resistance.

Critical mass? (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 5 years ago | (#28036905)

I wonder, Europium being quite heavy and with radioactive isotopes, what pressure till you reach critical mass?

How many elements -could- be superconductors but due to their critical mass pressure being lower than their superconductivity pressure, can't be?

Re:Critical mass? (1)

wfstanle (1188751) | more than 5 years ago | (#28040221)

I am not a nuclear physicist but I do understand some of the principles concerning critical mass.

Critical mass isn't a simple number. There are a lot of variables such as the shape of the object. In simple terms, it centers about the loss of neutrons from a fissionable object. If there are more neutrons lost than is needed to sustain a chain reaction critical mass will not be achieved. The point is that a very long and narrow object (a cable) has a very high surface area (as compared to a sphere). Much more neutrons would be lost by such a shape thus it has a far greater critical mass. Even a material such as U235 if stretched into a suitably long cable could have a mass far greater than its critical mass when it is shaped as a sphere.

There are many fine points that have been glossed over. As I said, I am not a nuclear physicist and this is only my simple understanding.

Re:Critical mass? (1)

dhTardis (1326285) | more than 5 years ago | (#28044959)

I wonder, Europium being quite heavy and with radioactive isotopes, what pressure till you reach critical mass?

What makes you think that europium has a critical mass in the first place? It's actually considered a detriment to (controlled) nuclear reactions. Everything has radioactive isotopes, but very few have fissionable isotopes. And europium is lighter than, say, gold anyway.

Make me a cable! (2, Insightful)

cvtan (752695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28036911)

Bernd T. Matthias, the famous scientist who worked on superconductivity for many years, would have said, "Make me a cable!". This implies that if the material can't be formed into a wire, you can't do much in the way of practical power transfer. I suspect there isn't enough Europium in the Universe to do anything useful.

General Application Not Practical... (2, Interesting)

wisenboi (1154441) | more than 5 years ago | (#28037697)

From the article: "The researchers then cooled europium down to about 1.8 kelvins (â"271.35Â Celsius), a frigid temperature near absolute zero. At pressures around 80 gigapascals, or about 800,000 times the pressure exerted by the atmosphere at sea level, europium lost its magnetism. Electrons could flow freely through the metal without resistance." The closest thing the average person could conceive (or at least myself) in a) Pressure and b) freeze capability / something involving lasers? would be compactors and liquid nitrogen. I'm still having problems seeing this be generally applied for use. This isn't the first time yet another rare earth element/metal has had to be cooled down (and/or pressurized) to unnatural levels to unlock superconductivity. I thought the goals of such experiments was to figure out how to conventionally utilize superconductivity on a mass scale without the need for highly specific environmental conditions. Since this article also mentions most rare earth metals share this superconductive capability (at near-zero kelvin temperatures and/or massive unnatural Earth pressures), this isn't something new, still.

Europium is 63rd element. The 53rd is Iodine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28043051)

There is a typo in the summary. 53rd element is Iodine [wikipedia.org] , but Europium [wikipedia.org] is 63rd.

Re:Europium is 63rd element. The 53rd is Iodine (1)

dhTardis (1326285) | more than 5 years ago | (#28044983)

It's 53rd, apparently, in the list of elements found to be superconductive. Its atomic number is not being discussed.
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