Precious superconductor

M Ramesh | Updated on: Jul 24, 2022
Future shock: If power lines were made of superconducting materials, there would be phenomenal reduction in transmission loss

Future shock: If power lines were made of superconducting materials, there would be phenomenal reduction in transmission loss | Photo Credit: Kesavan A N 1612@Chennai

Can gold-silver nanocrystals solve electricity transmission woes?

‘Superconductivity’ is the holy grail of electrical physics — current zips through superconducting wires, with no loss of energy. In conventional electricity conduction, some amount of electrical energy gets converted into heat due to the resistance offered by the conducting material.

If our power lines were made of superconducting materials, it would mean phenomenal savings. But superconducting materials work only in ultra-cold conditions.

The need is for superconducting materials that work in ambient temperatures.

The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) has achieved a breakthrough with an engineered material they call ‘Au-Ag Nanostructures’. Silver particles, a billionth of a metre in size, are embedded into lattice structures of gold atoms. It shows “superconductivity-like signatures” because it offers zero resistance to the flow of electrons, Prof Anshu Pandey of the institute’s solid state and structural chemistry department told  Quantum.

But to qualify fully as a ‘superconductor’ it would need to have a few other properties.

The biggest of these is ‘stability’. The material is “extremely unstable”, meaning it does not remain unchanged for long. The researchers struggle to produce enough even for testing. Pandey is optimistic of tackling this problem within “10-12 months”.

IISc is inviting industry to partner in this research.

Published on July 24, 2022
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