Superconductivity: From physics to alchemy

N. Sacchetti

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In this paper a short historical account of the discovery of superconductivity and of its gradual development is given. The physical interpretation of its various aspects took about forty years (from 1911 to 1957) to reach a successful description of this phenomenon in terms of a microscopic theory At the very end it seemed that more or less everything could be reasonably interpreted even if modifications and refinements of the original theory were necessary. In 1986 the situation changed abruptly when a cautious but revolutionary paper appeared showing that superconductivity was found in certain ceramic oxides at temperatures above those up to then known. A rush of frantic experimental activity started world-wide and in less than one year it was shown that superconductivity is a much more widespread phenomenon than deemed before and can be found at temperatures well above the liquid air boiling point. The complexity and the number of the substances (mainly ceramic oxides) involved call for a sort of modern alchemy if compounds with the best superconducting properties are to be manufactured. We don't use the word alchemy in a deprecatory sense but just to emphasise that till now nobody can say why these compounds are what they are: superconductors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2617 - 2627
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Modern Physics B
Issue number25-27
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2000
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Condensed Matter Physics

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