Breakthrough Iron-based Superconductors Set New Performance Records

January 20, 2013 05:13 PM EST By: Jennifer Rocha

New fabrication method could advance technologies ranging from medical imaging devices to grid-scale energy storage

Story content courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory, US

A collaboration led by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory have created a high performance iron-based superconducting wire that opens new pathways for some of the most essential and energy-intensive technologies in the world. These custom-grown materials carry tremendous current under exceptionally high magnetic fields-an order of magnitude higher than those found in wind turbines, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines, and even particle accelerators.

“With the focused effort of this collaboration, we made a major breakthrough in iron chalcogenide-based superconducting films that not only sets the record for maximum critical current under high magnetic fields, but also raises the operating temperature for the material,” said Brookhaven Lab physicist Weidong Si.

When tested, the critical current density of the new iron-based superconductor reached more than 1 million amperes (amps) per square centimeter, which is several hundred times more than regular copper wires can carry over the same area. Under an intense 30-tesla magnetic field, the film carried a record-high 200,000 amperes per square centimeter. For scale, consider that household circuit breakers usually blow when hitting just 20 amps.

The work at Brookhaven Lab was funded by the DOE’s Office of Basic Energy Science, and the RABiTS substrates were provided by Oak Ridge National Lab under funding from DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability. Portions of the work were also carried out at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, which is supported by the National Science Foundation.


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