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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe the phenomenon of superconductivity
  • List applications of superconductivity

Touch the power supply of your laptop computer or some other device. It probably feels slightly warm. That heat is an unwanted byproduct of the process of converting household electric power into a current that can be used by your device. Although electric power is reasonably efficient, other losses are associated with it. As discussed in the section on power and energy, transmission of electric power produces I 2 R line losses. These line losses exist whether the power is generated from conventional power plants (using coal, oil, or gas), nuclear plants, solar plants, hydroelectric plants, or wind farms. These losses can be reduced, but not eliminated, by transmitting using a higher voltage. It would be wonderful if these line losses could be eliminated, but that would require transmission lines that have zero resistance. In a world that has a global interest in not wasting energy, the reduction or elimination of this unwanted thermal energy would be a significant achievement. Is this possible?

The resistance of mercury

In 1911, Heike Kamerlingh Onnes of Leiden University, a Dutch physicist, was looking at the temperature dependence of the resistance of the element mercury. He cooled the sample of mercury and noticed the familiar behavior of a linear dependence of resistance on temperature; as the temperature decreased, the resistance decreased. Kamerlingh Onnes continued to cool the sample of mercury, using liquid helium. As the temperature approached 4.2 K ( −269.2 ° C ) , the resistance abruptly went to zero ( [link] ). This temperature is known as the critical temperature     T c for mercury. The sample of mercury entered into a phase where the resistance was absolutely zero. This phenomenon is known as superconductivity    . ( Note: If you connect the leads of a three-digit ohmmeter across a conductor, the reading commonly shows up as 0.00 Ω . The resistance of the conductor is not actually zero, it is less than 0.01 Ω .) There are various methods to measure very small resistances, such as the four-point method, but an ohmmeter is not an acceptable method to use for testing resistance in superconductivity.

Picture shows resistance in Ohms plotted versus Current in Kelvin. Resistance is at zero till 4.2 K. At thus temperature it sharply increases and then continues to slowly and linearly increase with the temperature.
The resistance of a sample of mercury is zero at very low temperatures—it is a superconductor up to the temperature of about 4.2 K. Above that critical temperature, its resistance makes a sudden jump and then increases nearly linearly with temperature.

Other superconducting materials

As research continued, several other materials were found to enter a superconducting phase, when the temperature reached near absolute zero. In 1941, an alloy of niobium-nitride was found that could become superconducting at T c = 16 K ( −257 ° C ) and in 1953, vanadium-silicon was found to become superconductive at T c = 17.5 K ( −255.7 ° C ) . The temperatures for the transition into superconductivity were slowly creeping higher. Strangely, many materials that make good conductors, such as copper, silver, and gold, do not exhibit superconductivity. Imagine the energy savings if transmission lines for electric power-generating stations could be made to be superconducting at temperatures near room temperature! A resistance of zero ohms means no I 2 R losses and a great boost to reducing energy consumption. The problem is that T c = 17.5 K is still very cold and in the range of liquid helium temperatures. At this temperature, it is not cost effective to transmit electrical energy because of the cooling requirements.

Questions & Answers

determine absolute zero
OFERE Reply
The properties of a system during a reversible constant pressure non-flow process at P= 1.6bar, changes from constant volume of 0.3m³/kg at 20°C to a volume of 0.55m³/kg at 260°C. its constant pressure process is 3.205KJ/kg°C Determine: 1. Heat added, Work done, Change in Internal Energy and Change in Enthalpy
Opeyemi Reply
please how do dey get 5/9 in the conversion of Celsius and Fahrenheit
Gwam Reply
what is copper loss
timileyin Reply
this is the energy dissipated(usually in the form of heat energy) in conductors such as wires and coils due to the flow of current against the resistance of the material used in winding the coil.
Henry
it is the work done in moving a charge to a point from infinity against electric field
Ashok Reply
what is the weight of the earth in space
peterpaul Reply
As w=mg where m is mass and g is gravitational force... Now if we consider the earth is in gravitational pull of sun we have to use the value of "g" of sun, so we can find the weight of eaeth in sun with reference to sun...
Prince
g is not gravitacional forcé, is acceleration of gravity of earth and is assumed constante. the "sun g" can not be constant and you should use Newton gravity forcé. by the way its not the "weight" the physical quantity that matters, is the mass
Jorge
Yeah got it... Earth and moon have specific value of g... But in case of sun ☀ it is just a huge sphere of gas...
Prince
Thats why it can't have a constant value of g ....
Prince
not true. you must know Newton gravity Law . even a cloud of gas it has mass thats al matters. and the distsnce from the center of mass of the cloud and the center of the mass of the earth
Jorge
please why is the first law of thermodynamics greater than the second
Ifeoma Reply
define electric image.obtain expression for electric intensity at any point on earthed conducting infinite plane due to a point charge Q placed at a distance D from it.
Mateshwar Reply
explain the lack of symmetry in the field of the parallel capacitor
Phoebe Reply
pls. explain the lack of symmetry in the field of the parallel capacitor
Phoebe
does your app come with video lessons?
Ahmed Reply
What is vector
Ajibola Reply
Vector is a quantity having a direction as well as magnitude
Damilare
tell me about charging and discharging of capacitors
Ahemen Reply
a big and a small metal spheres are connected by a wire, which of this has the maximum electric potential on the surface.
Bundi Reply
3 capacitors 2nf,3nf,4nf are connected in parallel... what is the equivalent capacitance...and what is the potential difference across each capacitor if the EMF is 500v
Prince Reply
equivalent capacitance is 9nf nd pd across each capacitor is 500v
santanu
four effect of heat on substances
Prince Reply
Practice Key Terms 5

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Source:  OpenStax, University physics volume 2. OpenStax CNX. Oct 06, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col12074/1.3
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