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Superconductivity to meet humanity's greatest challenges

The stage is now set for superconductivity to branch out and meet some of the biggest challenges facing humanity today.

This is according to a topical review `Superconductivity and the environment: a Roadmap', published today, 16 September, in IOP Publishing's journal Superconductor Science and Technology, which explains how superconducting technologies can move out of laboratories and hospitals and address wider issues such as water purification, earthquake monitoring and the reduction of greenhouse gases.

Lance Cooley, a guest editor of the article who is based at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, said: "Superconductivity has been meeting some great challenges over the past 50 years. The Large Hadron Collider, mankind's largest machine, would not exist were it not for superconductivity."

"There are many uses of superconductors in other big science projects, laboratory devices, and MRI systems. Now, as the roadmap outlines, new materials and technologies enable researchers and entrepreneurs to be more versatile and apply superconductivity in other ways that contribute to our everyday lives, such as innovations to benefit our environment."

By utilising superconducting quantum interference devices (SQUIDs) very sensitive contraptions that can measure extremely small changes in magnetic fields one section explains how unexploded weapons, otherwise known as unexploded ordnances (UXOs), can be detected and safely recovered.

Thousands of UXOs are still discovered each year around Europe, especially in areas that were heavily bombed during the Second World War. They can be very unstable and still pose a major threat; however, the sheer scale and complexity of the terrain that needs to be surveyed makes detecting them very complicated.

A section by Pascal Febvre, from the University of Savoie, explains how a complete network of SQUIDs dotted around the globe could also aid the detection of sol

Contact: Michael Bishop
Institute of Physics

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