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Cambridge team breaks superconductor world record

A world record that has stood for more than a decade has been broken by a team led by the University of Cambridge.

The researchers managed to 'trap' a magnetic field with a strength of 17.6 Tesla – roughly 100 times stronger than the field generated by a typical fridge magnet – in a high temperature gadolinium barium copper oxide (GdBCO) superconductor.

The new record was achieved using 25mm diameter samples of GdBCO high temperature superconductor fabricated in the form of a large, single grain using an established melt processing method.

The previous record of 17.2 Tesla, set in 2003 by a team led by Professor Masato Murakami from the Shibaura Institute of Technology in Japan, used a highly specialised type of superconductor of a similar, but subtly different composition and structure.

"The fact that this record has stood for so long shows just how demanding this field really is," said Cambridge University's Professor David Cardwell, who led the research in collaboration with Boeing and Florida State University. "There are real potential gains to be had with even small increases in field."

A number of niche applications are currently being developed by the Cambridge team and its collaborators, and it is anticipated that widespread commercial applications for superconductors could be seen within the next five years.

"This work could herald the arrival of superconductors in real world applications," Prof Cardwell concluded.

Laura Hopperton

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