Science: Superconductors!

The startling breakthrough that could change our world

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Those results suggest an intriguing possibility. Says Bell Labs' Penzias: "Transition temperatures have increased by a factor of four in the past year. If temperatures are raised by another factor of four in the same period of time, we'll have room-temperature superconductors in less than a year." Adds IBM's Praveen Chaudhari: "All the mental barriers are gone. No one is asking how high it will go anymore." If room-temperature superconductivity is achieved, whether in a year or in a score of years, its impact will be incalculable. The need for refrigerators and insulation, even for liquid / nitrogen, will be gone. And the costs of this still futuristic technology could drop more dramatically than anyone expects. Says IBM's Paul Grant: "We're looking. Everyone is." Adds IBM's William Gallagher: "We shouldn't let our imaginations be constrained by things we now know about. We're just not able to imagine the things you can do."


CREDIT: TIME chart by Joe Lertola


DESCRIPTION: Highest known superconducting temperatures for various materials on a scale of absolute zero to over 100 Kelvin for the years 1911 to 1980, with illustration of scientist holding thermometer bounding up steps.

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