cover image The Breakthrough: The Race for the Superconductor

The Breakthrough: The Race for the Superconductor

Robert M. Hazen. Summit Books, $18.45 (271pp) ISBN 978-0-671-65829-8

With the advent of high-temperature superconductors, the world is poised on the verge of a major technological revolution. Under the former method, superconductivity (the transmission of electricity with no resistance) occurred only in materials that were expensively cooled in liquid helium to near absolute zero (459.67 F). In 1986, two IBM scientists, Johann Georg Bednorz and Karl Alex Muller demonstrated superconductivity in a metal oxide well above the previous temperature threshold. Then University of Houston physicist Paul Chu developed a new material that became a superconductor above the temperature of cheap liquid nitrogen, thus making commercial applications possible. Hazen, a physicist at the Carnegie Institution's Geophysical Lab, led the team that deciphered the structure of Chu's superconductor. Here, he recounts the enormous excitement and the scientific skullduggery that characterized the race to discover high-temperature superconductors. This well-written tale of a historic scientific discovery is bound to appeal to a wide audience. Library of Science dual main selection; BOMC, QPBC and Natural Science Book Club alternates. (July)