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Cool Wire: Nanostructure boosts superconductor

Superconductive wire remains a wannabe technology for many applications. Although some ceramic wires can compete with conventional copper for use in power lines, they don't meet requirements for widespread use in industrial devices containing wire coils, such as transformers and motors.

Now, a ceramic-wire prototype has performed so well in superconductivity tests that it could win against copper across the gamut of expected uses, its inventors claim. Whether the wire could be made abundantly and cheaply remains uncertain.

Pin-length strips of the wire, a narrow, layered ribbon including a nickel-alloy base and a superconductive ceramic film, attained record currents in magnetic fields like those in coils, report researchers at Oak Ridge (Tenn.) National Laboratory.

"This is a first demonstration that, in a single superconducting wire, you can have such performance," says Amit Goyal.

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