Uses of Superconductors
Superconductors have many uses - the most obvious being as very efficient
conductors; if the national grid were made of superconductors rather than
aluminium, then the savings would be enormous - there would be no need
to transform the electricity to a higher voltage (this lowers the current,
which reduces energy loss to heat) and then back down again.
The US Department
of Energy are actively encourages the use of superconductors as energy
So-called 'MagLev' trains such as the Yamanashi MLX01 train show above have been under development in Japan for the past two decades - the train floats above the track using superconducting magnets; this eliminates friction and energy loss as heat, allowing the train to reach such high speeds.
Visit the MagLev R&D Department Home Page to find out more about the project.
MRI is a technique developed in the 1940s that allows doctors to see
what is happening inside the body without directly performing surgery.
The development of superconductors has improved the field of MRI as the
superconducting magnet can be smaller and more efficient than an equivalent
Particle Colliders like CERN's Large
Hadron Collider (LHC) are like very large running tracks that are used
to accelerate particles (i.e. eletrons, positrons, hadrons and more) to
speeds approaching the speed of light before they are collided with one
another or other atoms, usually to split them (this was how many sub-nuclear
particles such as taus and neutrinos were discovered).
Type II superconductors can be used to
as very fast electronic switches (as they have no moving parts), due to
the way in which a magnetic field can penetrate into the superconductor
- this has allowed Japanese researchers to build a 4-bit computer microchip
(compared to today's 32-bit and 64-bit processors) operating at about
500 times the speed of current processors, where heat output is currently
a major problem with typical speeds approaching the 1GHz mark.
The US Department of Energy's Superconductivity page and Superconductors.org's 'Uses' section are useful pages for information and links about the applications of superconductors (or for borrowing pictures...).