A Study Into Energy Gap In Super Conductors

Project and Seminar Material for Physics

A Study Into Energy Gap In Super Conductors


The study of super conductors, its concept and the various theories are still a mystery in the field of Solid-State Physics. Although a few theories try to explain the working principle (i.e. how and why it works) of super-conductors scientists believed that a full acknowledgment of its energy gap; is dependence on temperature and pressure and the effect of doping may finally unlock the door to a vast acknowledge of superconductivity. This project work brings all in one piece, the various principle and theories as derived by some renowned scientist working to ensure full understanding in this area of physics. It is believed that High Temperature Superconductors (HTS) i.e. superconductors with considerable high critical temperature hold the key to the practical application of super conductors.

Chapter One

1.1 Introduction

Super conductivity is a fascinating and challenging field of physics. Scientists and Engineers throughout the world have been striving to develop it for many years. For nearly 75 years superconductivity has been a relatively obscure subject. Until recently, because of the cryogenic requirement of low temperature superconductors, superconductivity at the high school level was merely an interesting topic occasionally discussed in a Physics class. Today however, superconductivity is being applied to many diverse areas such as: medicine, theoretical and experimental science, the military, transportation, power production, electronics, as well as many other areas. With the discovery of high temperature superconductor which can operate at liquid nitrogen temperature (77k), superconductivity is now well known within the reach of high school student. Unique and exciting opportunities now exist today for our student to explore and experiment with this new and important technological field of Physics. Major advances in low-temperature refrigerator were made during the late 19th century. (Bedornz, J and Muller, K; 1986).

1.2 Problem Statement

It is not practical to transmit electric energy if you need liquid helium temperatures. The cooling costs are prohibitive. The current state of the art are cables using thin films of BSCCO. They can operate at 77 K without problems. The current world record for such a cable in a vacuum tube is several kilometers but after some distance you need a small building along the cable to cool the liquid nitrogen inside the cable again.

There is a tremendous research effort to find superconductors with higher critical temperatures and currents but that is not so easy. The usage for practical applications is increasing but the progress is rather slow. In more exotic applications such a CERN or ITER you absolutely need superconducting cables, if it is only for space reasons: Well, Is it really possible to maintain such low temperatures required for super-conductors (taking High-temperature superconductivity into account) over large distances? What I say is – Even if we were able to pass current through superconductors, we need to constantly cool them for maintaining the zero resistance. Hence to cool, we need power. Then, superconductors wouldn’t be necessary in this manner if they don’t have an advantage..? Or, are there any new approaches to overcome these disadvantages?

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The primary objective of the study is to examine the energy gap in superconductors. Specific objectives of the study are:

  1. To critically examine the various types and properties of super conductors
  2. To examine energy gaps in low temperature super conductors.
  3. To examine energy gaps in high temperature super conductors.

1.4 Significance of the Study

The study will give more insights into the various ways superconductors can be utilised and improved. Superconducting materials are in the forefront of current research because of their very rich and fascinating properties and their applications in electrical and electronics technology and energy-saving materials. Superconductivity is a unique characteristic of certain materials that appears when the system temperature is dropped below a specific critical value and under such conditions the materials can carry electrical current with absolutely zero resistance.

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General Classification of Super Conductors

There is not just one criterion to classify super conductors. The most common are:

(a) By their physical properties

They can be type 1 (if their phase transition is of first order) or type II (if their phase transition is of second order)

(b) By the theory to explain them

They can be conventional (if they are fully explained with the BCS theory or related theories) or unconventional (if no).

(c) By their critical temperature (TC):

They can be high temperature (HTS) i.e generally considered if they reach the superconducting state just by cooling them with liquid nitrogen (if Tc > 77K) or low temperature (LTS) i.e if they need other technique to be cooled under their critical temperature (if Tc < 77K) or >.

(d) By materials:

If they can be chemical element (such as mecury or lead), alloys (as niobium-titanium or germanium-niobium) ceramics (as YBCO or the magnesium diboride), or organic superconductors (as fullerenes or carbon nonotubes, which technically might be included between the chemical element as they are made of carbon).


Full understandings of super conductivity is not yet know, but scientists believe that a full knowledge of superconductivity and its surrounding phenomena have very essential potentials and thus can improve the standard of living for human the all over the world. Already, researches are going on in labs on best to employ the use of superconductors especially the high temperature superconductors HTS (which can be cooled with liquid nitrogen, a substance far cheaper than human and more obtainable). Although a few ground have been broken, a full knowledge of super conductivity can means an endless stream of possibilities and practical application. Below are a few of the technological application of superconductivity.

Superconductivity have been used to make “digital circuits” (e.g based on rapid single flux quantum technology) at RF microwave filters for mobile phone base stations.

Superconductors are used to build “Josephson Junction” which are the building block of SQUDS (Super Conducting Quantum Interference Devices), the most sensitive magnetometer know series of Josephson devices are used to defined the S1 volt, depending on the particular mode of operation, a Josephson Junction can be used as photo detector or as a mixer. The large resistance change at the transition from the normal to the superconductivity state is used to build thermometers in cryogenic micro calorimeter photon detectors.

Superconducting magnet are some of the most powerful electromagnetic know. They are used in MRI and NMR machines, mass spectrometers, and beam-steering magnets used in particle accelerators. They can also be used for magnetic separation, where weakly magnetic particles are extracted from a background or less or non magnetic particles, as in the pigment industries.

Since 2000, several transmission project have used cryogenically cooled HTS (High Temperature Superconductors) cable to provide electricity off of commercial power grid. In 2001, 150,000 resident of Copenhagen Denmark, began receiving electricity through HTS cables. That same year, three-four hundred foot HTS cable were installed for Detroit Edison at Frisbie substation that could deliver 100 million watt of power. HTS cable connected  to the Nigerian Muhawk power corporation’s power grid since July 2006 has been supplying power to approximately 70, 000 households. These successful project are proofs that HTS use in power transmission is a practical reality.

Other early market are arising where the relative efficiency, size and weight advantage of devices based on HTS out weigh the additional cost involved. Promising future application include “high performance transformer”, “electric motors” (e.g for vehicles propulsion, as in vactrains or Maglev trains), magnetic levitation devices and fault current limiters. However, superconductivity is sensitive to moving magnetic field so application that uses alternating current (e.g transformers) will be more difficult to develop than those that rely on direct current.


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