Philosophical Society of Washington

Superconductivity: Who Cares?

Fernand D. Bedard
National Security Agency


2002nd Meeting Abstract
Friday, November 20, 1992 at 8:15 PM

Abstract:

Discoveries in Physics are often envisioned as golden opportunities for major commercial applications. Unfortunately, they often find themselves as solutions looking for problems. In that context, superconductivity, discovered in 1911, has been searching for a role in some large market. In recent years, due principally to the discovery of materials which display zero resistance at liquid nitrogen temperatures, the pursuit has emphasized applications in the highly competitive world of microelectronics. In that world one of the most exciting and productive developments has been that of high performance computing–Supercomputing. Physics, chemistry, biology, and engineering have been greatly advanced by the ability to rapidly calculate answers to very complicated equations. More prosaic things such as cartoons and TV commercials have found manipulating graphics to be very financially rewarding. However, as usual, high performance demands are out pacing readily available technologies; increases in speed are wanted, reductions in power are needed. This perceived "demand" has motivated significant developments in superconducting electronics where both low power and blinding speed are simultaneously achievable. Thus one is strongly tempted to ask whether Supercomputing can be the market which transitions superconductivity from a physics phenomenon to a microelectronics technology.

About the Author:

Fernand Bedard received his PhD in Physics from The Johns Hopkins University. He has taught at the University of Cincinnati and American University. He is a research Physicist at NSA where his work has been in magnetic resonance and superconductivity, with most recent emphasis on Superconductive electronics.

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