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A hot time for cold superconductors

BOSTON, Dec. 3, 2003 -- A new way to manufacture a low-cost superconducting material should lead to cheaper magnetic resonance imaging machines and other energy-efficient applications, say Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists.

Hot isostatic pressing of wires made of magnesium diboride, or MgB2, significantly increased the amount of electrical current the wires can carry without electrical resistance. Wires made from MgB2 would reduce the costs of such products as MRIs and electrical generators, say the researchers: Adriana Serquis, Leonardo Civale, Xiaozhou Liao, J. Yates Coulter, Duncan Hammon, Yuntian Zhu, Dean Peterson and Fred Mueller from Los Alamos' Superconductivity Technology Center; and Vitali Nesterenko from the University of California, San Diego. They presented their findings on Dec. 3 at the Materials Research Society meeting in Boston.

"This material will likely serve as a bridge to the energy future in a variety of cost-driven applications, because potentially this is the lowest-cost superconducting material," said Peterson, who leads the Los Alamos Center. "There's nothing to prevent making this material into wires that are many miles long."

Since 1911, researchers have known that certain materials can conduct electricity without resistance at temperatures near absolute zero. However, few commercial applications for superconducting materials have been developed due to high costs of materials, manufacturing and cooling. Coated conductor tapes based on deposition of high temperature superconducting films on flexible metal tapes offer the highest potential for broad scale applications; however, alternative materials also have potential uses.

The discovery of superconductivity in MgB2 in early 2001 generated high interest because this material is several times cheaper to make than other superconductors.

"Initially, everybody was excited about this material because of the lower manufacturing costs, but the pe
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Contact: Jim Danneskiold
jdanneskiold@lanl.gov
505-667-1640
DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory
8-Dec-2003


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