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Superconductivity

Context: IISc researchers have reported superconductivity at room temperature. Their finding, now under review, will be a breakthrough if verified.

Background:

  • Superconductivity is a phenomenon that, so far, has been possible only at extremely low temperatures, in the range of 100°C below zero.
  • The search for a material that exhibits superconductivity at room temperature, or at least manageable low temperatures, has been going on for decades, without success.
  • If the claimed discovery were confirmed, it could be one of the biggest breakthroughs in physics in this century so far.

What is superconductivity?

  • It is a state in which a material shows absolutely zero electrical resistance. While resistance is a property that restricts the flow of electricity, superconductivity allows unhindered flow.
  • In a superconducting state, the material offers no resistance at all. All the electrons align themselves in a particular direction, and move without any obstruction in a “coherent” manner.
  • Because of zero resistance, superconducting materials can save huge amounts of energy, and be used to make highly efficient electrical appliances.

Two fundamental properties of a superconductor:

  1. Zero resistance to electrical current.
  2. Diamagnetism

Also Read : NPT and NSG 

Diamagnetism is a property opposite to normal magnetism that we are used to. A diamagnetic substance repels an external magnetic field, in sharp contrast to normal magnetism, or ferromagnetism, under which a substance is attracted by an external magnetic field.

How rare is this?

    • The problem is that superconductivity, ever since it was first discovered in 1911, has only been observed at very low temperatures, somewhere close to what is called absolute zero (0°K or -273.15°C).
    • In recent years, scientists have been able to find superconductive materials at temperatures that are higher than absolute zero but, in most cases, these temperatures are still below -100°C and the pressures required are extreme. Creating such extreme conditions of temperature and pressure is a difficult task.
    • Therefore, the applications of superconducting materials have remained limited as of now.

Current Affairs 2020

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