Superconductors, those high-tech materials that were supposed to revolutionize everything from computers to the late superconducting super collider, don’t seem to have lived up to their advance billing, scientists say.
That didn’t seem to bother a group of physicists — including a Nobel laureate — who gathered March 11 at Texas A&M University for a daylong symposium honoring physicist Charles Squire, a distinguished former member of Texas A&M’s physics faculty.
“So far, they (superconductors) just haven’t lived up to the initial hype,” solid-state physicist Allen M. Hermann of the University of Colorado told the symposium audience.
Superconducting materials do offer a fruitful field for research, Hermann said, and several practical devices that use them are in use or being developed.
The symposium, “Six Decades of Antiferromagnetism and Related Topics in Solid State Physics,” brought together researchers who had studied with Squire or who have been influenced by his pioneering studies in solid-state physics.
Squire was on Texas A&M’s physics faculty from 1962 to 1969. He also served as associate dean of the then-College of Arts and Sciences and headed the physics department. He was named a distinguished professor in 1968.
He also served on the faculties of MIT and Rice University.
Practical superconductors haven’t yet brought about the super-fast computers or friction-free railroads predicted by early superconductivity boosters, Hermann said.
He noted, however, that new high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging instruments based on superconducting technology are now in use. And devices based on superconducting materials that could be used to make cellular communications more efficient are being studied in university laboratories and private companies.
In addition to Hermann, physicists Clifford Shull of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (co-winner of the 1994 Nobel Prize for Physics), Donald Huffman of the University of Arizona, Paul Chu of the University of Houston’s Texas Center for Superconductivity, Brian Maple of the University of California at San Diego and James Erskine of the University of Texas at Austin also presented papers during the symposium.
Other researchers presented posters during an afternoon symposium session.
The event was organized by Texas A&M physicist Donald Naugle and colleagues in Texas A&M’s Department of Physics.
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