26 Jan, 2023 530 Physics

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the discovery made in 1911 by the Dutch physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (1853-1926). He came to call it Superconductivity and it is a set of physical properties that nobody predicted and that none, since, have fully explained. When he lowered the temperature of mercury close to absolute zero and ran an electrical current through it, Kamerlingh Onnes found not that it had low resistance but that it had no resistance. Later, in addition, it was noticed that a superconductor expels its magnetic field. In the century or more that has followed, superconductors have already been used to make MRI scanners and to speed particles through the Large Hadron Collider and they may perhaps bring nuclear fusion a little closer (a step that could be world changing).

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  • Nigel Hussey No other episodes
    Professor of Experimental Condensed Matter Physics at the University of Bristol and Radbout University
  • Suchitra Sebastian No other episodes
    Professor of Physics at the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge
  • Stephen Blundell 3 episodes
    Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford and Fellow of Mansfield College

Reading list

  • Superconductivity, Superfluids and Condensates
    James F. Annett (Oxford University Press, 2005) Google Books →
  • Superconductivity: A Very Short Introduction
    Stephen J. Blundell (Oxford University Press, 2008) Google Books →
  • High-Temperature Superconductivity: An Introduction
    Gerald Burns (Academic Press, 1992) Google Books →
  • Introduction To Superconductivity and High-Tc Materials
    Michel Cyrot and Davor Pavuna (eds.) (World Scientific, 1992) Google Books →
  • Superconductivity: Discoveries and Discoverers: Ten Physics Nobel Laureates Tell Their Story
    Kristian Fossheim (Springer, 2015) Google Books →
  • Superconductivity
    V. L. Ginzburg and E. A. Andryushin (WSPC, 2004) Google Books →
  • A Different Universe: Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Down
    Robert Laughlin (Basic Books, 2006) Google Books →
  • A Materials Science Guide to Superconductors
    Susannah Speller (Oxford University Press, 2022) Google Books →

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Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. In 1911, the Dutch physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes made a remarkable discovery that nobody predicted and that none can since fully explain.