ducting materials in answering our third question: How can new materials change industry and society when they reach the broad applications stage? First, they will be used in specialized, high-value-added applications in the electronics industry. The number of possible applications is enormous, from measuring small magnetic fields to fast computing with Josephson devices. These are applications that will come quickly.

Second, high-temperature superconductors will probably influence electrotechnology, that is, the production and transport of electrical power, even though several critical developments are necessary. For example, because the materials are ceramics, which are notoriously nonductile, it is difficult to use them as windings in electric generators. How can they be put in the right shape? What kind of auxiliary equipment is necessary to keep them at a low temperature? Even if they are superconductive at room temperature, their current-carrying capacity will be only one-fourth of the transition temperature.

Thus, “high-temperature” superconducting materials are much easier to use than those cooled with liquid helium, mostly because they can be cooled with liquid nitrogen, which is a much better coolant with a much higher heat of evaporation. However, enormous developments are required before these superconductors can be used for massive applications.

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