ILC NewsLine special issue

Happy 100th Anniversary, Superconductivity

This year marks the centenary of the discovery of superconductivity, the property that allows us to focus bunches and bend beams, opening the way to probe the most basic principles of the universe. Without it, there would be little talk of accelerating gradients, quality factors or large colliders. In this issue, we celebrate the weird and fascinating phenomenon discovered 100 years ago.



Around the World

Impersonating bulk niobium

Jefferson Laboratory scientists ionise niobium to make thin films that may outperform their bulkier sibling.

by Leah Hesla

Anything bulk niobium can do, thin films can do better. At least, that’s the hope of Jefferson Laboratory scientists, who are currently exploring a method that would allow them to create customisable thin niobium films.

Director's Corner

One hundred years of superconductivity

by Barry Barish

This year is the 100th anniversary of the discovery of superconductivity in 1911, the central technology employed in modern particle accelerators.


from CERN Courier: Inside Story: The discovery of superconductivity

The discovery of superconductivity

One hundred years ago, on 8 April 1911, Heike Kamerlingh Onnes and his staff at the Leiden Cryogenic Laboratory were the first to observe superconductivity. In a frozen mercury wire, contained in seven U-shaped capillaries in series, electrical resistance suddenly seemed to vanish at 4.16 K.

Around the World

from DESY inForm: No resistance

Superconductivity discovered a hundred years ago

These are the electrifying moments to make a scientist’s life worth living: take up work at a laboratory, carry out measurement series and, suddenly, see absolutely unexpected results – a tiny detail which is wrong. The measurements are repeated and tested for possible mistakes – but the unexpected proves true.

Superconductivity - Useful Resources

Superconductivity primers

Learn all about superconductivity and its applications with these helpful online resources.

Celebrating 100 years of Superconductivity
To celebrate 100 years of superconductivity, IOP Publishing has made 100 articles available free to read for the duration of 2011

La supraconductivité dans tous ses états
Un site interactif sur la supraconductivité

Superconductivity in all its forms
An interactive site on superconductivity

NIST Online Museum of Quantum Voltage Standards
A history of quantum voltage standards by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology

Superconductivity in ILC NewsLine

Look back on superconducting technology’s contribution to the International Linear Collider and particle physics in back issues of ILC NewsLine.

22 April 2010
Superconducting cavities could help reducing nuclear waste radio-toxicity

28 January 2010
Successful beginning of S1 global at KEK

26 February 2009
Past successes in superconducting RF are a good omen for the ILC

6 December 2007
ILC challenges materials science

22 June 2005
Superconducting RF – a technological basis for the ILC

Superconductivity in the media

All over the world news outlets reflect on the remarkable achievements made possible by the discovery of Heike Kamerlingh Onnes on 8 April 1911.

from BBC
18 April 2011
Superconductors got hot 25 years ago
Superconductivity is a hundred years old this month, and a way to make it accessible turned 25 this week. But just how it does what it does remains a mystery even now.

from Scientific American
8 April 2011
Absolute Hero: Heike Onnes’s Discovery of Superconductors Turns 100 [Slide Show]
A century after the discovery of materials that conduct electricity without resistance, the applications remain disappointingly limited. That may be about to change.

from Science
8 April 2011
Superconductivity’s Smorgasbord of Insights: A Movable Feast
On 8 April 1911, physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes scrawled in a notebook misdated 1910, “Mercury practically zero.” Lost in a page of text, that cryptic phrase marks perhaps the most important discovery in the physics of materials.

6 April 2011
Down the path of least resistance
Since its discovery 100 years ago, our understanding of superconductivity has developed in a far from smooth fashion.

from Nature
1 April 2011
A very cool birthday
Superconductivity may have reached its centenary, but if anything it’s a more active field of research today than ever. From materials dull or shiny, to the race for the Higgs boson, superconductivity remains relevant and exciting.

Video of the week

LHC superconducting magnets

CERN’s video on superconducting magnets takes you from the pure physics of superconductivity to its application in particle colliders. See the Meissner effect in action and learn about how superconducting magnets were designed and installed in the Large Hadron Collider.

View the video

In the News

  • from New Scientist
    03 May 2011
    The team working on the Antihydrogen Laser Physics Apparatus (ALPHA) at the CERN particle physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, have stored atoms of antihydrogen for 1000 seconds – roughly 10,000 times longer than before.
  • from Fermilab Today
    2 May 2011
    A decade ago, a muon collider was considered nearly impossible. Now, scientists at Fermilab’s MuCool Test Area are a step closer to testing some critical components for such an accelerator.