Canadian scientists edge toward room temperature superconductors

WATERLOO, Ont. -- Canadian scientists have made an important advance that could one day lead to a science-fiction world of levitating trains and batteries that don't lose their juice sitting in the drawer.

See Full Article

"People might have these things in their homes -- levitating devices, ultra-effecient power transmission ... these technologies exist," said David Hawthorn from the University of Waterloo in Ontario.

Hawthorn and his colleagues study superconductivity, a state in which a material exhibits zero resistance to an electric current and expels all magnetic fields. A loop of superconducting wire would be able to carry an electrical pulse around and around indefinitely with no additional energy source.

Superconductors, already used in devices such as MRI machines, could also usher in a new generation of everything from superfast computers to ultra-efficient wind turbines. But first, scientists have to crack the temperature problem.

Even a so-called "high-temperature superconductor" operates at -110 C -- achievable in a lab, but not in everyday situations. A room temperature superconductor is the Holy Grail of such research.

Enter Hawthorn. He used powerful, polarized X-rays generated by the synchrotron on the University of Saskatchewan campus to peer into the electrons of certain copper-containing superconducting crystals.

Those X-rays found electrons in the atoms of those crystals form patterns that may ultimately be related to how much superconductivity the crystals are capable of achieving. The patterns appear to be a key characteristic to this family of materials.

"That clearly has bearing on the big questions of superconductivity and how we might achieve a higher temperature superconductor," said Hawthorn.

"If we could figure out a way to control it in some fashion, by engineering a particular crystal or particular pressure to the material, that might give us a knob to tune the strength of superconductivity and ultimately lead to a higher temperature superconductor."

Hawthorn said the study, published in the journal Science, also suggests those electron patterns and how they form or break up could shed light on basic questions of how materials behave.

"We spend a lot of our time thinking about what would be the theory, the key ingredients that are going to describe what's happening in these materials.

"That ends up being a tremendously challenging problem and a Nobel Prize-worthy problem. If somebody was able to come up with a theory for this problem, that is a Nobel Prize."


Latest Tech & Science News

  • Jeremy the snail is rare, lonely and looking for love

    Tech & Science CBC News
    more stories from this episodeFacial recognition software 'sounds like science fiction,' but may affect half of AmericansJeremy the snail is rare, lonely and looking for loveFull Episode Jeremy is looking for love. But Jeremy has a problem. Source
  • Schiaparelli Mars probe crash-landed, may have exploded, says ESA

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Images taken by a NASA Mars orbiter indicate that a missing European space probe was destroyed on impact after plummeting to the surface of the Red Planet from a height of two to four kilometres, the European Space Agency said on Friday. Source
  • European Space Agency says Mars probe may have exploded

    Tech & Science CTV News
    BERLIN -- The European Space Agency says its experimental Mars probe crash-landed and may have exploded when it hit the surface of the red planet Wednesday. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has taken pictures showing a black spot in the area where the craft, called Schiaparelli, was meant to land. Source
  • Facebook removes breast cancer video, citing 'inappropriate' content

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Facebook is under fire for removing a cartoon breast cancer awareness video due to “inappropriate” content. The video, posted by the Swedish Cancer Society, demonstrated how to perform a self-breast exam with round pink circles mimicking breasts. Source
  • Cincinnati Zoo rejoins Twitter following Harambe controversy

    Tech & Science CTV News
    In this May 30, 2016 file photo, Alesia Buttrey, of Cincinnati, holds a sign with a picture of the gorilla Harambe during a vigil in his honour outside the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File) Source
  • U.S. internet disrupted as key firm hit by cyberattack

    Tech & Science CTV News
    LONDON -- Cyberattacks on a key internet firm repeatedly disrupted the availability of popular websites across the United States Friday, according to analysts and company officials. The White House described the disruption as malicious. Manchester, New Hampshire-based Dyn Inc. Source
  • Cyberattacks disrupt popular websites, affecting users in the U.S., Canada

    Tech & Science CTV News
    THE ASSOCIATED PRESS@ LONDON -- Cyberattacks on a key Internet firm repeatedly disrupted the availability of popular websites across the United States on Friday, according to analysts and company officials. The attack had knock-on effects for users trying to access popular websites from across America, Canada and even in Europe. Source
  • U.S. internet disrupted as key firm gets hit by cyberattack

    Tech & Science CTV News
    LONDON -- There have been reports of internet disruption across the East Coast of the United States after a key firm was hit by a cyberattack. New Hampshire-based Dyn said its server infrastructure was hit by a distributed denial-of-service attack, which works by overwhelming targeted machines with malicious electronic traffic. Source
  • Major websites down in U.S. East Coast after suspected cyberattack

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Some major internet companies suffered service disruptions on Friday due to what internet infrastructure provider Dyn said was an ongoing interruption of its network mainly impacting the U.S. East Coast. But as of about 9:36 a.m. Source
  • How to watch the Orionid meteor shower Friday night

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Stargazers will be able to catch the annual Orionid meteor shower on Friday night during its second night of a two-day peak but unfavourable conditions could make it difficult to see. According to NASA, the best time to catch a glimpse of the meteor shower is a few hours before dawn when the sky is the darkest. Source