The 200K superconducting material contains only inexpensive and non-toxic elements, a method of refinement to increase its volume fraction is now all that is required for it to become the first commercial superconductor capable of operating at dry ice temperatures.
Superconductors can radically reduce the size of engines and increase engine efficiency and enable many new technologies. For the last few decades what has prevented this is the high cost of superconductors, the cost of lowering the temperature to a level where superconductors can operate and production limitations.
This new superconductor should greatly expand the uses for superconductors and the continued progress with better superconducting materials suggest that room temperature superconductors could be developed in the near future.
Synthesis of these materials was by the solid state reaction method. Stoichiometric amounts of the below precursors were mixed, pelletized and sintered for 11 hours at 890C. The pellet was then annealed for 10 hours at 500C in flowing O2.
The 200K material is believed to have a B212/1212C intergrowth structure, where B=11 and C=copper chain. This structure is shown below left and has the chemical formula Sn6Ba4Ca2Cu10Oy. The general formula for this new family of superconductors is SnxBa4Ca2Cu(x+4)Oy. Within this new family, unit cells with 3 to 6 atoms of tin (x) have been found to superconduct, with 6 atoms of tin producing a new record high Tc near 201K.
Four resistance tests were averaged and four magnetization tests were averaged, producing a mean resistive Tc of 200.8 Kelvin and a magnetic Tc of 202.4 Kelvin.
Previous superconducting discoveries have all had patents applications made. The inventor seems to be in correspondence and having his work followed by scientists at Los Alamos and other respected institutions.
Reviewing the Many Superconducting Developments in 2008
The formula for the 195K superconductor is (Sn1.0Pb0.5In0.5)Ba4Tm6Cu8O22+. Its 1256/1212 structure is shown.
A new method of production was developed. This new method of synthesis, layers of 12x(x+1) and 1212 precursors are alternated in a “layer cake” arrangement before sintering. Each layer was initially pressed at 200 psi. Then, once all the layers were set, the entire pellet was pressed at 70,000 psi and sintered in the UPRIGHT position. When sintered in the “sideways” position, very little of the desired phase forms. This suggests gravity facilitates migration of the heavy thulium atoms. This technique results in the desired phase forming along interference boundaries.
Ten times more 185K superconducting material was made and detectable amounts of 195K material.
The 195K material is being patented. But the new method of synthesis is being released into the public domain without patent protection. It may be used freely without limitations. When combined with the Tao Electrostatic Separation Technique, this method should be able to produce a near homogenous 195K bulk superconductor
NOTE: this was a highly systematic process to modify the makeup of the material to find a higher criticial temperature structure.
The number of families of superconducting material is providing more points of data for creating unified theories for all superconductors. Successful unified theories would be able to guide the experimentalists even better on optimal doping strategies and changes to the structures to tune the various properties of the superconductors. This could allow rapid progress to the creation of room temperature superconductors and material for moving higher energy density and optimizing many other useful properties.
This year has seen excellent experimental progress being made to room temperature (300K) superconductors as well as theoretical progress. There has also been the whole new class of higher temperature iron based superconductors.
Getting up to dry ice temperatures will lower the cost of using the superconductors because the cooling problems will be greatly simplified. It gets us closer to the goals of room temperature superconductors and some of the applications could be possible with dry ice. Even the superconductors that need a lot more cooling are being used for more efficient engines and generators that are three times smaller than conventional. There has also been a commercial pilot of superconducting cable for electric utility distribution. Superconductors can also make better magnets for nuclear fusion reactors.
It appears that dry ice cooling temperatures are two to seven times cheaper than liquid nitrogen temperatures.
WHAT WOULD COMMERCIALLY USABLE ROOM TEMPERATURE SUPERCONDUCTORS MEAN ?
BBC News talked about that anticipated but delayed vision from the hoped for results from the 1987 “warmer” superconducting breakthroughs.
Levitating high-speed trains, super-efficient power generators and ultra-powerful supercomputers would become commonplace thanks to a new breed of materials known as high temperature superconductors (HTSC).
Those difficult to manipulate superconductors have been on track to make smaller and more efficient motors with commercial impact in 2010 South Korea was making significant advances with 1300hp superconducting generators.
Electric car motors would shrink to be one third the size for the same power by using superconducting wire. Similar to the previously mentioned improvement for the large superconducting motors of navy ships. It is more difficult to make a cost efficient superconducting small motor.
If room temperature superconductors were cheap to make they could replace batteries and also the need for a car engine by storing the power to run the car. Currently this is cost prohibitive. Wikipedia has an article on superconducting magnetic energy storage
Here was a more recent list of predictions of what “warm” superconductors that we had before the most recent two announcements could provide. 100Tbps routers, faster communications, faster computers, better sensors and more. Room temperature versions would make all of these things cheaper, more widespread and more powerful.
If the new room temperature superconductors have or can be made to have a very high current density relative to their weight, then there is the possibility of a ground launched magnetic sail or high performance magnetic sails for space propulsion.
D.G. Andrews and R.M. Zubrin, “Magnetic Sails and Interstellar Travel.” Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, 1990. The first paper published, concerned primarily with the cost savings to other propulsion systems from the use of the magsail as an interstellar brake.
R.M. Zubrin and D.G. Andrews, “Magnetic Sails and Interplanetary Travel.” Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, April 1991. The technical description and very thorough analysis of the magsail for interplanetary travel. Excellent.
R.M. Zubrin, “The Magnetic Sail.” Analog Science Fiction & Fact, May 1992. A version of the above paper edited for a non-technical audience. Useful for general concepts, inadequate for a full understanding.
Uses of cheaper versions of current superconductors.
Electrostatic Separation Technique for Superconductors is described here. This technique will work to separate superconductors from metallic as well as non-metallic materials.
In the electrostatic separation technique, a vertical capacitor cell with dimensions 18mm X 15mm X 15mm was fashioned from a U-shaped teflon spacer. 2 brass plates were attached to the open sides of the spacer to create a cavity and provide electrodes for the capacitor. The cavity was filled with liquid nitrogen and particles of roughly 25-38um size were placed in the pool. High voltage (1100 dcv/mm) was applied to the two metal electrodes for at least two minutes. The electric field was then reduced (to 333 dcv/mm) for one minute. After collecting the respective particles, they were found to be essentially pure BSCCO and pure Sb.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.