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After the Breakthrough: The Emergence of High-Temperature by Helga Nowotny

By Helga Nowotny

The invention of high-temperature superconductivity was once hailed as a big clinical leap forward, inducing an remarkable wave of pleasure and expectation one of the clinical group and within the foreign press. This booklet units this examine step forward in context, and reconstructs the background of the invention. The authors research the emergence of this new study box and how its improvement was once formed by means of scientists and technology coverage makers. in addition they research many of the institutional and nationwide settings during which the examine was once undertaken in addition to contemplating the medical backgrounds and motivations of researchers who entered the sphere following the unique discovery.

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Additional info for After the Breakthrough: The Emergence of High-Temperature Superconductivity as a Research Field

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He announced an eleven-point Superconductivity Initiative: "Science tells us that the breakthrough in superconductivity brings us to the threshold of a new age ... It is our task... to herald in that new age with a rush... " (Heppenheimer, 1987) Things began to calm down, at least in scientific circles, in October 1987 when the Nobel Committee awarded Miiller and Bednorz the Nobel Prize for physics for their work in early 1986. The award recognized the significance of their discovery of the first ceramic material to superconduct at the then-high temperature of 30 K.

The BCS theory helped scientists understand why there are two types of superconductors - but did not predict what material would fall into which category, nor did it provide a clue for finding better superconductors. It was not without predictive power, though, having led to the discovery of coherence phenomena such as the Josephson effect. In 1962, Brian Josephson, then a young graduate student at Cambridge (UK), solved another crucial puzzle about superconductivity. By combining tunneling theory and the general concept of weak links, he created the theoretical basis for a device now known as the Josephson junction, a sandwich of two superconductors separated by a thin insulating barrier.

Ironically, when the US was re-evaluating the advantages of high-speed ground transportation, the lack of domestic maglev technology meant it had to consider German and Japanese systems (OTA 1990: 38-9). Similarly, in 1983, IBM closed down its three hundred million dollar Josephson junction computer project in the US, just as Japan was taking up the idea. Whether Japan has successfully leapfrogged in either LTS or HTS remains to be seen. Thus, superconducting applications have been partly dependent on government-supported technological systems, themselves at the mercy of extraneous political and economic circumstances.

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