There have been reports that South Korean researchers have made a practical regular atmospheric pressure room temperature superconductor using basic lab equipment. This would mean superconducting wires and magnets that would not need special cooling. Depending upon your application you might still want to cool the system but you could use regular refrigerants.
NOTE: The South Korean paper still needs to be replicated and confirmed. Extraordinary claims need a lot of verification and study. The work can be mistaken or wrong, which would mean we would still need to develop the actual breakthrough.
We had a large breakthrough decades ago with YCBO ceramic superconductors that could operate with only liquid nitrogen cooling. The wires made were brittle so that production was difficult. Quantum computers based upon superconducting chips do not use YCBO they use silicon and nobium and cool the chips to near absolute zero. If the new materials can replace nobium for superconducting computer chips and be scaled up then this would be huge for regular computers.
The US Navy, NASA and Japanese companies have been working to make engines for ships and planes smaller and more powerful. This work is described after the superconducting computer project.
The key to unlocking these applications is having the new materials be easy to work with, low cost and durable. If we can thousands or millions of tons per year then we can make computers 100 times faster, 1000 times less power, engines and motors of all kinds 4 times lighter and more efficient. The materials would need to have higher power to weight ratios.
This will also help nuclear fusion and quantum computer projects but our everyday world would be impacted more if we could replace silicon for chips. Limited supplies of materials would mean high priority supercomputer projects would get the new chips first. Also, more powerful engines would go into space and aerospace projects first.
Work on Computers with 1000 Times Less Power and 100 Times Faster
Superconducting logic refers to a class of logic circuits or logic gates that use the unique properties of superconductors, including zero-resistance wires, ultrafast Josephson junction switches, and quantization of magnetic flux (fluxoid). Superconducting logic can be an attractive option for ultrafast CPUs, where switching times are measured in picoseconds and operating frequencies approach 770 GHz.
Researchers were trying to make nobium chips into ultrafast and hyper energy efficient supercomputing. There was a $15 million project funded for $15 million with USC and other universities.
The research effort being undertaken by partnering universities will work in tandem with the work at USC, and focus on novel material and devices, on-chip memory design, and interfaces to room temperature electronics to enable the design and prototyping of a superconductive system of cryogenic computing cores (SuperSoCC). The expectation is that the SuperSoCC will be capable of yielding at least 100 times improved energy efficiency compared to CMOS while delivering performance comparable to state-of-the-art semiconductor-based multi-core processing chips. In addition, the SuperSoCC can also deliver at least 10 times processing speed improvement at the same energy consumption level as CMOS-based computing. These performance gains are achievable in spite of the energy cost of required cryogenic cooling.
Superconducting chips could use 1,000 times less power and operate at least 10-100 times faster. The energy required to support all of the cloud computing in the world is about five percent of the total energy on the planet. Friedman and three colleagues at Rochester are key partners in an ambitious, $15 million project, led by the University of Southern California, to develop next-generation, superconductive integrated circuits—on chips a third of an inch in size—that would be at least 100 times more energy efficient and operate more than 10 times faster than the CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) technology currently used. The team will develop an integrated system that incorporates a superconducting central processing unit (CPU), neural network accelerator, and Ising Machine solver.
Central to this system are integrated circuits based on superconductive Josephson junctions that would operate at -321 degrees Fahrenheit (4K). The Josephson junctions store 0 and 1 logic values by creating or removing persistent currents in superconductive loops. The Josephson junctions are combined into a special logic family called single flux quantum (SFQ). Since these loops exhibit zero resistance, the circuits do not lose energy loss as with CMOS technologies.
Friedman, who has worked extensively developing SFQ design methodologies, says the costs of maintaining the chips at cryogenic temperatures is easily offset by the gains in computing performance and increased efficiency in energy use.
The circuits and architecture team that will build on recent advances in SFQ technology— including work funded by multiple IARPA (Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity) projects in his own lab—to bolster the amount of memory that can be stored and increase the number of Josephson junctions on each integrated circuit.
Smaller and More Powerful Engines – Supersonic electric passenger planes and Double Navy Ship Speeds
More powerful superconducting magnets can make regular gas turbines smaller and more powerful and electric engines smaller and more powerful. This was already done with a lot of YCBO superconducting wire/tapes. The advantages were more than the cooling problems. The US Navy has electric engines that are four times less weight (75 tons and not 300 tons) while generating the equivalent power (36 Megawatts).
Superconducting electric motors can increase efficiency up to 99% up from 90% for non-superconduciting motors.
Grid and Other Applications
Superconducting electromagnets can generate 20 tesla magnetic fields – more than 200,000 times the Earth’s magnetic field and possibly 100 tesla. The electromagnets use a current of 11,080 amperes to produce the field for a 8 tesla magnet. Superconducting coil allows the high currents to flow without losing any energy. The Yamanashi superconducting Maglev train in Japan levitates 4 inches (10 centimeters) above its guideway and travels at speeds up to 311 mph (500 kph).
Electric cars like the Tesla Model 3 use permanent magnets for the motor. A lighter and more powerful superconducting magnet would lower the weight and make the electric motors more efficient and powerful.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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