A Hundred Years of Superconductivity
CHICAGO – The world’s first “quantum” computer – a machine that harnesses the magic of quantum phenomena to perform memory and processing tasks incredibly faster than today’s silicon-based computer chips – was recently sold by D-Wave Systems of Canada to Lockheed-Martin. And, while some question whether the machine is truly a quantum computer, its designers have published articles in peer-reviewed journals demonstrating that the basic elements of this novel computer are indeed superconducting quantum bits.
This spring marked the 100th anniversary of the discovery of superconductivity – the ability of materials to carry electrical current with no loss. Currents set up in superconducting wires can exist for years without any measurable decay.
Because of this property, superconductors have unique features that can be exploited in many ways. They can carry enormous amounts of current, making them ideal for urban power grids. And, when wound into coils, they can produce extremely strong magnetic fields.