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BIG IDEA: Superconductors

What is a superconductor? Let's start by Imagining you have a toy car that can go really fast, but it needs a lot of energy from batteries to move. Now, think about if your toy car could go super fast without using any batteries at all – that's kind of like what superconductors do, but for electricity!

A superconductor levitating.

Normal materials like metal wires have some resistance, which means they resist the flow of electricity, just like how you might feel resistance when you try to push your toy car on a rough surface. Superconductors, on the other hand, have zero resistance. This means electricity can flow through them without any hindrance, like your toy car gliding smoothly on a super smooth track.

Superconductors are special because they can conduct electricity without losing any energy. This property makes them incredibly useful for various things, like creating really strong magnets for things like magnetic levitation trains (maglev trains). These trains can float above the tracks because of the powerful magnetic fields created by superconductors, allowing them to move incredibly fast and smoothly.

Superconductors traditionally only work at extremely low temperatures, close to absolute zero (-273.15°C). This makes them not very useful for everyday applications.

In July 2023 a research paper was published by South Korean scientists on their success of building a room temperature superconductor. There was a race around the globe for other scientists to replicate this invention. As the other scientists published their results, they found that the superconductor failed to work at higher temperatures.

However scientists and engineers are still figuring out how to make superconductors work at higher temperatures so they can be used more widely. Incredible uses would be in MRI machines, more effiencient electricity grids, generators and wind turbines!

Links: 'The First Room-Temperature Ambient-Pressure Superconductor'


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