Posted: Thu May 31, 2007 11:05 pm Post subject: Canadian physicists report an electrifying discovery
Canadian physicists have cracked a decades-old mystery surrounding metals that carry electricity without resistance, opening the door for everyday trains that levitate on magnetic fields, ultrapowerful quantum computers and big savings for utilities.
One of the most promising applications for such superconducting metals is in magnetic levitation trains, which can theoretically run at speeds of up to 500 km/h.
The force of powerful magnets suspends these trains in the air above a rail, eliminating friction from moving parts.
But the few experimental magnetic levitation (known as maglev) trains have been commercial failures because current electromagnets are too inefficient and bulky.
The use of superconducting metals for the magnets would slash both electricity costs and weight, making maglev trains practical, transportation experts say.
Other possible superconducting applications include shrinking MRI machines to the size of laptops, eliminating the 10 to 20 per cent electricity lost from resistance inside power stations and building quantum computers, machines so powerful they would make today's supercomputers resemble mere pocket calculators
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Canadian physicists report an electrifying discovery