Superconductivity Essay

1502 words - 6 pages

INTRODUCTIONWe've all heard about superconductivity. But, do we all know what itis? How it works and what are its uses? To start talking aboutsuperconductivity, we must try to understand the how 'normal' conductivityworks. This will make it much easier to understand how the 'super' partfunctions. In the following paragraphs, I will explain how superconductivityworks, some of the current problems and some examples of its uses.CONDUCTIVITYConductivity is the ability of a substance to carry electricity. Somesubstances like copper, aluminium, silver and gold do it very well. They arecalled conductors. Others conduct electricity partially and they are calledsemi-conductors. The concept of electric transmission is very simple tounderstand. The wire that conducts the electric current is made of atomswhich have equal numbers of protons and electrons making the atomselectrically neutral. If this balance is disturbed by gain or loss of electrons,the atoms will become electrically charged and are called ions. Electronsoccupy energy states. Each level requires a certain amount of energy. For anelectron to move to a higher level, it will require the right amount of energy.Electrons can move between different levels and between different materialsbut to do that, they require the right amount of energy and an 'empty' slot inthe band they enter. The metallic conductors have a lot of these slots andthis is where the free electrons will head when voltage (energy) is applied. Asimpler way to look at this is to think of atoms aligned in a straight line (wire).if we add an electron to the first atom of the line, that atom would have anexcess of electrons so it releases an other electron which will go to thesecond atom and the process repeats again and again until an electron popsout from the end of the wire. We can then say that conduction of an electricalcurrent is simply electrons moving from one empty slot to another in theatoms' outer shells.The problem with these conductors is the fact that they do not let allthe current get through. Whenever an electric current flows, it encounterssome resistance, which changes the electrical energy into heat. This is whatcauses the wires to heat. The conductors become themselves like aresistance but an unwanted one. This explains why only 95% of the powergenerated by an AC generator reaches consumers. The rest is convertedinto useless heat along the way. The conducting wire is made of vibratingatoms called lattice. The higher the temperature, the more the lattice shakesmaking it harder for the electrons to travel through that wire. It becomes likea jungle full of obstacles. Some of the electrons will bump with the vibratingatoms and impurities and fly off in all directions and lose energy in form ofheat. This is known as friction. This is where superconductivity comes intowork. Inside a superconductor, the lattice and the impurities are still there,but their state is much different from that of an ordinary...

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