Explore the Science of Super Conductors

ITHACA, NY — Since their discovery nearly 100 years ago, superconductors have grown from an unexplained laboratory phenomenon to one of the greatest successes of quantum physics and a staple of modern medicine. The Physics Café series at Ithaca College will explore these unique materials in a talk by assistant professor of physics Matthew C. Sullivan on Wednesday, Feb. 3. His 7:30 p.m. presentation in Emerson Suites, titled “The ‘Super’ in Superconductors,” is free and open to the public.Because they have zero electrical resistance, superconductors have tremendous potential for use in power storage and transmission systems. Currently used in medicine to produce the stable magnetic fields required for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machines, superconductors could someday help make energy-efficient magnetic levitation (maglev) trains commonplace. The catch? Superconductors have to be super cold: at least -292 degrees Fahrenheit.Sullivan conducts research in experimental low-temperature physics and serves as a visiting assistant professor at the University of Maryland’s Center for Nanophysics and Advanced Materials. He will discuss the history of superconductors, describe some of their amazing properties and consider what the prospects are for room-temperature superconductors. He will also bring superconductors to life with demonstrations of levitation, suspension and maglev trains.The Physics Café series offers talks on current topics in physics in a casual environment, where audience members and physicists can informally discuss new ideas over coffee and cookies. Past presentations have featured such topics as the time-warping properties of black holes, string theory and the exploration of Mars.

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