Superconductivity and MgB2

The possibility of having a conductor that does not oppose any resistance to the current flow may seem, at first sight, an ideal model - like frictionless motion or the ideal gas.

Materials with this amazing property exist and they are called superconductors. Superconductivity is a property of certain metals and alloys to become perfect electrical conductors when cooled down to very low temperatures. The superconducting state appears quite abruptly at a critical temperature, which is characteristic of the specific metal; below this value, the resistance is absolutely zero.

Thanks to their characteristics, superconductors not only are commonly and widely used in many different fields, but they also allow the development of applications which would have been unconceivable before, such as particle accelerators or magnetic levitation trains.

Despite the fact that there are hundreds of superconducting compounds, only five of them are suitable to be shaped into long wires. Among them, it is noticeable the Magnesium Diboribe, that was firstly synthesised in the 1950s, but it took until 2001 before its superconducting properties were discovered.

What is really important to underline is that thanks to its high critical temperature and easy chemical structure, it is a pretty competitive material for applications in the field of electrical current transport.

MgB2 is widely considered as a Medium-Tc superconductors thanks to its particular characteristics: on one hand it has in common with low-Tc superconductors its metallic character, its relatively simple crystal structure and its intrinsic superconducting property, on the other hand it shares with the high-Tc superconductors its layered structure and its critical temperature that allows it to employ through cryogenic machines, without the mandatory use of expensive cryogenic liquids.

The simple crystalline structure and easy synthesis make the production process cheap and fast.

Columbus has developed a proprietary method to produce MgB2 wires through a so-called ex-situ route, by means of which our wire products gain mechanically robustness, manufacturing reproducibility and become particularly low cost when compared to other high temperature superconductors being developed in long conductors. The actual plant is fully operational for MgB2 wire production (thousands of km of wire/year).

MgB2 shows a very large flexibility in the wire shape and architecture, and in the overall wire dimensions. There is no specific need to achieve any crystallographic texture of the superconducting particles, the only enabling factor for macroscopic supercurrent flow across the wires being the highest possible MgB2 packing density. Thanks to its flexibility, MgB2 can be used to create several different configurations, as you can see below:

mgb2 article

Although the material is relatively new in the Superconductivity contest, the reliability of the MgB2 wires produced by Columbus has been already demonstrated in the past years by the realization and successful operation of a number of commercial products and real-scale prototype devices, each consuming several tens of kilometres of our conductors, such as MRI systems, induction heaters, fault current limiters and various other solenoid and pancake windings. Some of these devices have been in operation continuously since 2007 without showing any significant failure or fault related to the superconducting component or its dry cryogenic cooling circuitry. Nowadays, Columbus is one of the player of the superconducting market and it is involved in three EU-funded projects: SR2S, Bests Paths and Suprapower. Basically, the aim of each project is to find, develop, validate and increase new solutions, unthinkable, without the availability of a superconducting material at a low price and a higher temperature.

Columbus Superconductors S.p.A.

Radiation issues for manned Mars mission

sidebar radiation article

During the rover's cruise to Mars between December 2011 and July 2012, RAD showed that an astronaut would clock up the same radiation dose in a day that the average American receives in a year. If you exclude medical dosages, it would be 10 times more than the average American.

See original article from The Guardian here.

Materials that Halt Hazardous Space Radiation

Radiation has long been an issue when it comes to space travel. In fact, NASA's Mars rover Curiosity recently confirmed previous research on the hazards of space radiation, revealing that radiation levels on the way to the Red Planet are several hundred times higher than the those humans receive on Earth. Now, scientists may have found a way to shield astronauts from the hazards of this radiation.

See original article from Science World Report here.

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Current Project Status

The SR2S project is nearing completion. Project partners presented their technological achievements at the final project dissemination event in Brussels in December 2015. To read more about this event, click here.

Next Project Milestone

The final project review meeting will take place in January 2016. Further information and final project results will be available after this date.

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